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Archive for the ‘God’s Presence’ Category

Pressing Through the Pain

SOURCE:  Lysa Terkeurst

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. — James 4:8 NKJV

Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?

I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.

But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy.

Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.

Pain is the reminder that the real Enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.

And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw? Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way. We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.

The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.

We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us.

If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us.

It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.

Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.

So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?

We invite God’s closeness.

For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else. Our key verse (James 4:8) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.

And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.

One of my favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close. Your Word promises when I draw close to You, You are there.

I want my drawing close to be a permanent dwelling place. At any moment when I feel weak and empty and alone, I pray that I won’t let those feelings drag me down into a pit of insecurity. But rather, I want those feelings to be triggers for me to immediately lift those burdensome feelings to You and trade them for the assurance of Your security.

I am not alone, because You are with me. I am not weak, because Your strength is infused in me. I am not empty, because I’m drinking daily from Your fullness. You are my dwelling place. And in You I have shelter from every stormy circumstance and harsh reality. I’m not pretending the hard things don’t exist, but I am rejoicing in the fact that Your covering protects me and prevents those hard things from affecting me like they used to.

You, the Most High, have the final say over me. You know me and love me intimately. And today I declare that I will trust You in the midst of my pain. You are my everyday dwelling place, my saving grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And with that I close my prayer journal, feeling a lot less desperate and a lot more whole. I breathe the atmosphere of life His words bring. I picture Him standing at the door of my future, knocking. If I will let Him enter into the darkness of my hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

Dear Lord, in this moment I draw near to You and I invite Your closeness. Help me to experience Your presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Excerpted from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst

When God Does the Miracle We Didn’t Ask For

SOURCE:  Vaneetha Rendall Risner/Desiring God

Countless childhood surgeries. Yearlong stints in the hospital. Verbal and physical bullying from classmates. Multiple miscarriages as a young wife. The unexpected death of a child. A debilitating progressive disease. Riveting pain. Betrayal. A husband who leaves.

If it were up to me, I would have written my story differently. Not one of those phrases would be included. Each line represents something hard. Gut wrenching. Life changing.

But now, in retrospect, I wouldn’t erase a single line.

Honestly, it is only in hindsight that I can make such a bold statement. Through all of those devastating events, I begged God to deliver me. To save my baby, to reverse my disease, to bring my husband back. Each time God said no.

Instead of Deliverance

“It’s not about getting what I want. It’s about God giving me what I desperately need: himself.”

“No” was not the answer I wanted. I was looking for miraculous answers to prayer, a return to normalcy, relief from the pain. I wanted the kind of grace that would deliver me from my circumstances.

God, in his mercy, offered his sustaining grace.

At first, I rejected it as insufficient. I wanted deliverance. Not sustenance. I wanted the pain to stop, not to be held up through the pain. I was just like the children of Israel who rejoiced at God’s delivering grace in the parting of the Red Sea, but complained bitterly at his sustaining grace in the provision of manna.

With every heartache I wanted a Red Sea miracle. A miracle that would astonish the world, reward me for my faithfulness, make my life glorious. I didn’t want manna.

But God knew better. Each day he continued to put manna before me. At first, I grumbled. It seemed like second best. It wasn’t the feast I envisioned. It was bland and monotonous. But after a while, I began to taste the manna, embrace it, and savor its sweetness.

A Far Deeper Work

This manna, this sustaining grace, is what upheld me. It revived me when I was weak. It drove me to my knees. And unlike delivering grace which, once received, inadvertently moved me to greater independence from God, sustaining grace kept me tethered to him. I needed it every day. Like manna, it was new every morning.

“I have inexplicable joy not in my circumstances, but in the God who cares so fiercely for me.”

God has delivered me and answered some prayers with a resounding “yes” in jaw-dropping, supernatural ways. I look back at them with gratitude and awe. Yet after those prayers were answered, I went back to my everyday life, often less dependent on God. But the answers of “no” or “wait,” and those answered by imperceptible degrees over time, have done a far deeper work in my soul. They have kept me connected to the Giver and not his gifts. They have forced me to seek him. And in seeking him, I have discovered the intimacy of his fellowship.

In the midst of my deepest pain, in the darkness, God’s presence has been unmistakable. Through excruciating struggles, he speaks to me. He comforts me through his word. He whispers to me in the dark, as I lie awake on my tear-stained pillow. He sings beautiful songs over me of his love.

The Joy of His Manna

At first, I just want the agony to go away. I don’t rejoice in the moment. I don’t rejoice at all. But as I cling to God and his promises, he sustains me. Joy is at first elusive. I have glimpses of delight, but it is mostly slow and incremental.

Yet over time, I realize I have an inexplicable joy — not in my circumstances, but in the God who cares so fiercely for me. Eating the everyday, bland, sometimes unwelcome manna produces a joy beyond my wildest imaginings.

“In the midst of my deepest pain, in the darkness, God’s presence has been unmistakable.”

I have found that this joy, which is often birthed out of suffering, can never be taken away; it only gets richer over time. My circumstances cannot diminish it. It produces lasting fruit like endurance, character, and hope. It draws me to God in breathtaking ways. It achieves a weight of glory that is beyond all comparison.

I still pray earnestly for deliverance, for the many things I long to see changed, both in my life and in the world. That is right. It’s biblical. We need to bring our requests to God.

But as much as I long for deliverance, for delivering grace, I see the exquisite blessing in sustaining grace. It’s not about getting what I want; it’s about God giving me what I desperately need: himself.

When Your Children Have Mental Illness

SOURCE:  Diane Ramirez

Keeping your stressed marriage healthy

After 35 years of marriage, serious thoughts of divorcing my husband took me by surprise. I never thought I would ever consider leaving James, as divorce is contrary to our Christian values. But when our contention over difficulties with our adult children escalated, I started to entertain thoughts of separation, and so did he.

Let me be real with you. I suffer with depression; it runs through my genes. Our son is diagnosed with mixed bipolar disorder, and our adopted daughter suffers with severe separation anxiety. Throw in a spouse who is an A-type personality, and you have a recipe for conflict.

The crisis peaked when our youngest daughter moved back home with an infant and a 5-year-old. Her husband was deployed overseas. Not only was she experiencing debilitating separation anxiety, she was making unhealthy choices and spending much of her time with old friends. Her checking out caused a lot of clashes. My mental and physical health disintegrated. Many times I had to leave our home for days just to get rest, as she expected me to pick up the slack of caring for her kids.

I felt alone, fatigued, and mad that my husband was not there for me. I discovered, through our many “talks,” that he didn’t like the way I was acting. He wondered why I couldn’t rise above the madness. He didn’t grasp the emotional and physical strain of day-to-day life at home because he escaped by going to work, school, or other activities away from us.

Differences Can Create Wedges

In a crisis, it’s typical to want to escape. The mayhem created by constant appeals for help from both of our adult children created a vacuum in our relationship. This is how my husband described it on our blog, “Not Losing Heart”:

“[My wife] seemed to have a different understanding than I at first. Our beliefs were at odds and it was putting a wedge between us. I believed that if our children would do this or that, or do things my way, they would get it right. When my wife challenged my thinking, I became angrier inside. I felt she was coddling them.”

A wedge is a good way to describe what can happen to a marriage when mental illness raises its ugly head. Parents tend to think a change in a child’s behavior is due to the normal developmental challenges of adolescence. Disagreements on what causes these behaviors or what should be done can create a wedge. These differences are even more apparent when dealing with an adult child who should be living independently.

A wedge creates a gap and a gap can create a chasm if a couple will not stop and assess what is happening. It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of chaos that mental illness causes.

In our marriage, these factors created our wedge:

• We had different perspectives on solutions. My husband wanted our children to be more independent. He wanted a “quick fix”; I wanted to nurture and stay engaged with them. Both of us felt we were supporting them, but with totally different styles.

• Our communication broke down. A difference of opinions is expected, but when those opinions keep a couple from reaching a solution, anger, anxiousness, frustration, and loneliness set in. It’s like a tug-of-war over who is right. Each is working against the other, and it’s exhausting.

• We neglected our marriage. When we were caught up in our separate whirlwinds of emotion, focusing on our marriage was impossible. Resentment, snapping at each other, and being easily annoyed were a few indicators that we had lost touch with each other. Our relationship suffered.

• Our emotional responses were different. My husband withdrew to escape the chaos and stuffed his emotions. I resented him for his lack of involvement and became overcome with sorrow and depression, which affected my physical health.

What happened to our desire to live as one in Christ? To allow the Lord to live through us, to be a godly wife and husband? The unexpected super-storm sucked away our purpose as a Christian couple, because we let down our guard. We prayed, but we each had choices to make about where we were going.

As you contend with the difficulties surrounding a child with a brain disorder, there is no “easy button” to push. The truth is, it will feel like pushing a 10-ton boulder up a slippery slope. Perseverance is a key. And awareness of what is happening can be a catalyst in the meeting of the minds.

“Should Haves” to Do Now

My husband and I are healing now, thank God. In looking back, we discovered our “should haves”—a little late, perhaps, but still in time to save our marriage and to shrink the gaps developed by our ever-increasing differences. I’m including them here for you, to help your marriage stay healthy while you weather the storm of your adult or young child’s life with mental illness.

  1. Acknowledge you and your spouse are on different wavelengths. You might find more clarity if you write down what you think are the points of disagreement concerning your child
  2. Seek help. Find a trusted counselor to help mediate your differences.
  3. Be honest with how you feel. Feelings are neither right nor wrong.
  4. Respect how your spouse feels, even though it may upset you. (This is not easy.) And don’t make assumptions about the ways he/she is reacting.
  5. Make up your minds that your relationship is a priority no matter what is happening around you. Set boundaries, which can guide you in which crises really demand your time.
  6. Talk and listen. Don’t assume your partner is wrong in his or her assessment of the situation.
  7. Get a diagnosis for your child, or if he or she is an adult, encourage the adult child to get a diagnosis. Knowledge is power.
  8. Most important, educate yourselves on what that diagnosis means for your child (adult or not) and for your family.
  9. Breathe.
  10. Pray.
  11. Don’t forget humor; it really helps.
  12. Above all, give each other grace to work through the crisis. God has a separate timetable for each of us. He makes all things beautiful in his time.

Again I’ll quote my husband: “I remember when my wife began to look for information and searched the Internet, the library, and any resource she could find, and then shared that information with me. Something clicked inside. To our relief, we eventually found NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness). It was as though someone had thrown me a lifeline and given me the tools to make a difference in the life of our children, my marriage, and others. My wife and I needed to be on the same page as it came to giving compassion and finding empathy for what they were going through. She needed my support and I needed hers.”

It is my hope and prayer that if you’re in the kind of upheaval my husband and I experienced, these suggestions will aid you in getting a grip much sooner and arrive at the place where you can support each other. Don’t forget love. Love is the ultimate ingredient to stepping outside yourself. Love and perseverance will rekindle your marriage and reestablish your bond—keeping your connection intact no matter the how fierce the raging storm mental illness can cause.

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Diane Ramirez is a freelance writer, wife, mother of three adult children, and grandmother of five. She volunteers for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), co-facilitating a support group and the NAMI Basic classes for parents, and she blogs about this topic at NotLosingHeart.com.

PRAYERS TO HELP YOU SURVIVE A STRESSFUL WEEK

SOURCE:  Nicholas Hemming

Call out to God for peace and rest

After pulling into your driveway and gathering your belongings, you realize you lack the energy you need to stand up, walk to your front door and get on with your evening. So you drop your head on your steering wheel, hoping a 30-second nap will cure your ills. It doesn’t. Fifteen minutes later, you’re still in the car, wondering how your week spiraled out of control so quickly.

In the midst of your chaos—overwhelming work responsibilities, repairs to your house and car, logistics for your family—you’ve lost all sense of reason. That’s why you’re napping in the car. But what else can you do? You’re tired, frustrated, stressed and in desperate need of a vacation.

Does this sound familiar?

Maybe your family commitments recently ramped up and you’re struggling to stay afloat. Between keeping your house tidy, cooking at least two meals per day and driving your kids to and from soccer practice, you barely have enough energy to get to your office—let alone accomplish anything on your to-do list.

Or maybe you’ve endured a week when you haven’t seen eye to eye with anyone. You’ve argued with your boss, burned bridges with close friends and constantly fought with your spouse. You keep wondering if you’ve run into a stretch of bad luck or if you’ve simply felt more combative lately. Either way, you’re angry, exhausted and ready for the week to end.

In these moments, when you can’t seem to overcome your stress, you can turn to God’s Word for peace. And you can call out go God for rest. These four prayers will get you started:

Lord, I’m exhausted. Help me to find rest in you.

“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28 (GNTD)

Lord, I’m frustrated. I so badly want to take a break, but I feel trapped by all my responsibilities. Give me your joy today.

May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 (GNTD)

Lord, I know I’ve wronged my friends and family during this stressful week. Help me to approach them with humility.

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another.Ephesians 4:2 (GNTD)

Lord, I constantly feel unsettled. I need your peace today.

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”John 14:27 (GNTD)

PRAYERS TO HELP YOU ENDURE A MISERABLE JOB

SOURCE:  Nicholas Hemming

When you’re about to lose it at work, call out to God for peace and hope.

With a yawn and a sigh, you grab your lunch, saunter out your front door and casually climb into your car. After years of enduring a miserable job, you’ve grown accustomed to dragging your feet. Why should you hurry?

When you arrive at your desk, you know exactly how the day will unfold. Your boss will walk by and ignore your existence. You’ll have at least two angry emails waiting for you. And your co-workers will give you a half-hearted grumble when you greet them. That’s just how things go in your workplace. And that’s why you drag your feet every morning.

Do you feel miserable at work?

Whether you can’t stand your daily responsibilities, work for a difficult boss or feel overworked and underpaid, the process of surviving a challenging job can feel suffocating. You’d love to start applying for new jobs. But the whole process—updating your resume, interviewing, trying to figure out if you want to relocate, starting over with a new boss—overwhelms you. So where can you turn?

In these moments, you can call out to God for peace and hope. And you can open your Bible and meditate on reminders of God’s presence with you. These three prayers will get you started:

Lord, I’m losing patience with my boss, my co-workers and my entire company. Fill me with your peace today.

You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.Isaiah 26:3 (GNTD)

Lord, I feel trapped in this place. When I’m here, I constantly feel agitated and annoyed. Fill me with your joy today.

Light shines on the righteous, and gladness on the good. All you that are righteous be glad because of what the Lord has done! Remember what the holy God has done, and give thanks to him.Psalm 97:11-12 (GNTD)

Lord, I need a job that better suits me. Fill me with your hope today.

May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 (GNTD)

Dealing With Doubt

SOURCE:  Randy Alcorn/Ligonier Ministries

In times of doubt, difficulty, and trials, our fundamental beliefs about God and our faith are revealed.

So how can Christians find faith in the midst of doubt?

How can they trust God’s plan when their lives seem out of His control, and prayers seem to go unanswered or, as it sometimes feels, even unheard?

If you or someone you love has been there, these questions may be far more personal than theoretical. You might ask questions like these: Is God good? Is He sovereign? Does He care?

When we’re assailed by trials, we need perspective for our minds and relief for our hearts. It’s essential that we realign our worldview by God’s inspired Word: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Foundation of Our Faith

The sovereignty of God is a solid foundation for our faith. God’s sovereignty is the biblical teaching that all things remain under God’s rule and nothing happens without either His direction or permission. God works in all things for the good of His children (see Rom. 8:28), including evil and suffering. He doesn’t commit moral evil, but He can use any evil for good purposes.

Paul wrote, “In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). “Everything” is comprehensive—no exceptions. God works even in those things done against His moral will, to bring about His purpose and plan. We can follow Scripture’s lead and embrace the belief that a sovereign God is accomplishing eternal purposes in the midst of painful and even tragic events.

The Testing of Our Faith

Suffering and life’s difficulties either push us away from God or pull us toward him. Though he did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl wrote in The Unconscious God, “Just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.”

Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the one, true, sovereign God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, life’s formidable tests.

The devastation of tragedy is certainly real for people whose faith endures suffering. But because they do not place their hope for health, abundance, and secure relationships in this life, but in an eternal life to come, their hope remains firm regardless of what happens.

Faith means believing that God is good and that even if we can’t see it today, one day we will look back and see clearly His sovereignty, goodness, and kindness.

The Nurturing of Our Faith

In our times of doubt, God promises never to leave us. Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith.”

Trusting God is a matter of faith. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word. As a solar panel stores energy from sunlight, faith is established only by regular exposure to the truth and application of that truth to the events we confront in our lives. This is why it’s essential that we attend a church that teaches God’s Word and that we study it daily ourselves. When our beliefs are established on the truth, we are more likely to stand during times when doubts assail us.

The Hope of Our Faith

We should ask God to deliver us from Satan’s attacks of unbelief and discouragement. We should learn to resist them in the power of Christ (see James 4:7). Trusting God for the grace to endure adversity is as much an act of faith as trusting Him for deliverance from it.

God promises in Hebrews 13:5 (NIV), “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” This unusual Greek sentence contains five negatives. Kenneth Wuest translates it: “I will not, I will not cease to sustain and uphold you. I will not, I will not, I will not let you down.” When we languish in the deepest pit and wonder if God even exists, God reminds us that He remains there with us.

We can trust that God is refining us through our trials—and that one day He will bring us into His glorious presence.

The Lord says to us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…. When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isa. 43:2).

God’s presence remains with His children whether we recognize it or not. In periods of darkness, God calls us to trust Him until the light returns. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).

In this world of suffering, I have a profound and abiding hope, and faith for the future. Not because I’ve followed a set of religious rules, but because for forty-some years, I’ve known a real person, and continue to know Him better. Through inconceivable self-sacrifice, He has touched me deeply, given me a new heart, and utterly transformed my life. To Jesus be the glory, now and forever.

Depression: God Is Not Silent When We Suffer

SOURCE:  familylife.com/Edward T. Welch

If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path.

Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it. You feel numb. Perhaps the worst part is that you remember when you actually felt something and the contrast between then and now makes the pain worse.

So many things about your life are difficult right now. Things you used to take for granted—a good night’s sleep, having goals, looking forward to the future—now seem beyond your reach. Your relationships are also affected. The people who love you are looking for some emotional response from you, but you do not have one to give.

Does it help to know that you are not alone? These days depression affects as much as 25 percent of the population. Although it has always been a human problem, no one really knows why. But what Christians do know is that God is not silent when we suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children have been able to find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV):

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Come to God with your suffering

You can start to experience the inward renewal that the apostle Paul experienced when you come to God with your suffering. God seems far away when we suffer. You believe that He exists, but it seems as if He is too busy with everything else, or He just doesn’t care. After all, God is powerful enough to end your suffering, but He hasn’t.

If you start there, you’ll reach a dead end pretty quickly. God hasn’t promised to explain everything about what He does and what He allows. Instead, He encourages us to start with Jesus. Jesus is God the Son, and He is certainly loved by his heavenly Father. Yet Jesus also went through more suffering than anyone who ever lived!

Here we see that love and suffering can co-exist. And when you start reading the Bible and encounter people like Job, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul, you get a sense that suffering is actually the well-worn path for God’s favorites. This doesn’t answer the question, Why are you doing this to me? But it cushions the blow when you know that God understands. You aren’t alone. If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.

God speaks to you in the Bible

Keep your heart open to the fact that the Bible has much to say to you when you are depressed. Here are a few suggestions of Bible passages you can read. Read one each day and let it fill your mind as you go about your life.

    • Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
    • Use the Psalms to help you find words to talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 your personal prayers to God.
    • Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)
    • Don’t think your case is unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you and they will tell you that God did not fail them.
    • Remember your purpose for living. (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)
    • Learn about persevering and enduring. (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4)

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

Try one step at a time

Granted, it seems impossible. How can someone live without feelings? Without them you have no drive, no motivation. Could you imagine walking without any feeling in your legs? It would be impossible.

Or would it? Perhaps you could walk if you practiced in front of a large mirror and watched your legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical, but it could be done.

People have learned to walk in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.

As you walk, you will find that it is necessary to remember to use every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: 1) take one minute at a time, 2) read one short Bible passage, 3) try to care about someone else, 4) ask someone how they are doing, and so on.

You will need to do this with your relationships, too. When you have no feelings, how to love must be redefined. Love, for you, must become an active commitment to patience and kindness.

Consider what accompanies your depression

As you put one foot in front of the other, don’t forget that depression doesn’t exempt you from the other problems that plague human beings. Some depressed people have a hard time seeing the other things that creep in—things like anger, fear, and an unforgiving spirit. Look carefully to see if your depression is associated with things like these:

Do you have negative, critical, or complaining thoughts? These can point to anger. Are you holding something against another person?

Do you want to stay in bed all day? Are there parts of your life you want to avoid?

Do you find that things you once did easily now strike terror in your heart? What is at the root of your fear?

Do you feel like you have committed a sin that is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness?Remember that the apostle Paul was a murderer. And remember: God is not like other people—He doesn’t give us the cold shoulder when we ask for forgiveness.

Do you struggle with shame? Shame is different from guilt. When you are guilty you feel dirty because of what you did; but with shame you feel dirty because of what somebody did to you. Forgiveness for your sins is not the answer here because you are not the one who was wrong. But the cross of Christ is still the answer. Jesus’ blood not only washes us clean from the guilt of our own sins, but also washes away the shame we experience when others sin against us.

Do you experience low self-worth? Low self-worth points in many directions. Instead of trying to raise your view of yourself, come at it from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you. Let that define you and then share that love with others.

Will it ever be over?

Will you always struggle with depression? That is like asking, “Will suffering ever be over?” Although we will have hardships in this world, depression rarely keeps a permanent grip on anyone. When we add to that the hope, purpose, power, and comfort we find in Christ, depressed people can usually anticipate a ray of hope or a lifting of their spirits.

FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS

Is it okay to get medication?

The severe pain of depression makes you welcome anything that can bring relief. For some people, medication brings relief from some symptoms. Most family physicians are qualified to prescribe appropriate medications. If you prefer a specialist, get a recommendation for a psychiatrist, and ask these questions of your doctor and pharmacist:

    • How long will it take before it is effective?
    • What are some of the common side effects?
    • Will it be difficult to determine which medication is effective (if your physician is prescribing two medications)?

From a Christian perspective, the choice to take medication is a wisdom issue. It is rarely a matter of right or wrong. Instead, the question to ask is, What is best and wise?

Wise people seek counsel (your physicians should be part of the group that counsels you). Wise people approach decisions prayerfully. They don’t put their hope in people or medicine but in the Lord. They recognize that medication is a blessing, when it helps, but recognize its limits. It can change physical symptoms, but not spiritual ones. It might give sleep, offer physical energy, allow you to see in color, and alleviate the physical feeling of depression. But it won’t answer your spiritual doubts, fears, frustrations, or failures.

If you choose to take medication, please consider letting wise and trusted people from your church come alongside of you. They can remind you that God is good, that you can find power to know God’s love and love others, and that joy is possible even during depression.

What do I do with thoughts about suicide?

Before you were depressed, you could not imagine thinking of suicide. But when depression descends, you may notice a passing thought about death, then another, and another, until death acts like a stalker.

Know this about depression: It doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says that you are all alone, that no one loves you, that God doesn’t care, that you will never feel any different, and you cannot go on another day. Even your spouse and children don’t seem like a reason to stay alive when depression is at its worst. Your mind tells you, Everyone will be better off without me. But this is a lie—they will not be better off without you.

Because you aren’t working with all the facts, keep it simple. Death is not your call to make. God is the giver and taker of life. As long as He gives you life, He has purposes for you.

One purpose that is always right in front of you is to love another person. Begin with that purpose and then get help from a friend or a pastor.

Depression says that you are alone and that you should act that way. But that is not true. God is with you, and He calls you to reach out to someone who will listen, care, and pray for you.

Rejection By Friends Really Hurts

SOURCE:  Christina Fox/Desiring God

Rejected by Men, Even Our Friends

Wounds from a friend can hurt much more than those from an enemy.

It’s the kind of pain that cuts deep. It’s a wound that aches and throbs and is slow to heal. The rejection’s unexpected, and therefore worse — more painful.

We’ve all experienced rejection at some point in our lives. Whether it’s being picked last for a game at recess or being turned down for a job or being ridiculed for our faith, rejection from anyone hurts. But rejection at the hand of a friend hurts even more. And the deeper the friendship, the more excruciating the pain.

There is one thing that brings us hope in the midst of any rejection: Our Savior was rejected, too — even by his closest friends.

A Rejected Savior

Peter was one of Jesus’s most trusted friends. He was with Jesus from the start of his ministry. He had walked away from his livelihood to follow Christ. Peter was the first to claim Jesus as Lord and one of the few that saw Jesus in all his glory at the Transfiguration. Because of that history, the story of Peter’s denials is all the more poignant.

After Judas betrayed Jesus and the soldiers arrested him, Peter followed them to the high priest’s house. As he stood outside by the fire, waiting to hear what would happen, those in the courtyard recognized him as one of Jesus’s followers.

“Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:59–62)

Our Savior knows the pain of broken friendships. He knows what it’s like when friends fail us, reject us, and abandon us. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

He was also rejected by those he had grown up with in his hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:4). Perhaps some who waved palm branches and laid down their cloaks as Jesus entered Jerusalem just one week later were shouting, “Crucify him!”

At his arrest, all his disciples fled and abandoned him when he needed them most (Matthew 26:31).

And on the cross, he bore the full weight of rejection when the Father poured out his wrath upon him for our sins, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

My Forever Faithful Friend

I’ve been rejected by friends a number of times in my life. The confusion and shock of rejection is paralyzing. My mind can’t help but rehearse the memories with suspicion. I walk back through the years I spent with those who hurt me and wonder if I was wrong about everything I had thought about our friendship. I can’t help but want to withdraw to protect myself from further harm. I resist trusting others with my heart. Even worse, I’m prone to harbor anger, resentment, and bitterness toward those who hurt me.

But then I look at the Rejected. I look at the pain and abandonment he faced for me — because of me — and it helps me face my rejections. The gospel — the good news of what Jesus did through his life, death, and resurrection — gives me hope in the midst of my pain. The sorrow I feel over broken relationships reminds me of Jesus’s brokenness for me.

Even more, the gospel reminds me that I am just like Peter and the disciples.

Apart from God’s transforming grace in my heart, I would always reject God’s love. I would deny and abandon him. Seeing Jesus’s rejection, I’m reminded that I’ve been forgiven for far worse, and it helps me let go of anger and bitterness, and instead extend forgiveness.

The rejection Jesus endured shows me that he is my perfect forever faithful friend.

His love for me is not fickle. It’s not dependent upon what I do for him, and it does not change. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). When I am hurt by my friends, I always have a friend in Jesus. He understands my pain and sorrow. He has compassion for my tears. He is always with me, and I can always trust him.

As long as we live in this sin-stained world, we will all experience rejection — even, maybe especially, from dear friends whom we have loved and trusted for years. Jesus never promised to protect us from pain or sorrow, but to be with us in it and eventually to deliver us through it to himself.

Spiritual Discouragement

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch

Discouragement can result from different scenarios, but Satan is the instigator. He will do anything he can to dishearten us and keep our focus on negative things instead of on God.

A subtle form of spiritual discouragement is the idea that we cannot please God. This is a trap of the Devil, and too many Christians are ensnared by it. If we were to write down everything we thought we must do to please God, how long would that list be before it was complete? We would assume we should read the Bible more, pray more, give more, and witness more. We could probably fill up both sides of the paper. Then we would look at our list and realize it’s impossible to accomplish all of it.

That’s the trap.

What pleases the Lord is our obedience, not our adherence to a long checklist of duties.

Unanswered prayer is another source of discouragement.

When we present a request to the Lord, He does not necessarily answer in the manner or timing that would be our preference. When that is the case, we will far too often allow discouragement to creep in, and from there, we might decide to give up on prayer.

Focusing on the Lord is essential for breaking the chains of discouragement.

When you turn to God, it is also helpful to pray three things aloud:

  • First, thank Him for being with you while you feel disheartened.
  • Second, admit He is in control of your life.
  • And third, acknowledge that He is good and will ultimately work the circumstances for your benefit.

You’re Never Alone

SOURCE:  Lysa TerKeurst/NIV Real–Life Devotional Bible for Women

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” —Hebrews 4:16

Do you ever feel lonely?

Recently, I was at an event full of people. Everyone else seemed gabby and were effortlessly making easy connections with others.

I just felt out of sorts.

Someone had said something to me earlier that day that hurt my feelings and knocked me off kilter. It was one of those “I would really like to be at home alone, in a bubble bath, eating something chocolate” kind of nights. But I had to go to this outing, so here I was—lonely.

I politely smiled my way through the evening and finally got to go home. As I crawled into bed that night, I asked Jesus, “Why am I letting some thoughtless comment someone made affect me like this?”

There was no deep explanation. There was no Bible verse that instantly popped into my head. There was no sudden rush of peace through my heart. There was only a very gentle reminder in the depths of my soul that Jesus loves me—insecurities and all.

Jesus loves me.

Simple but so powerfully profound, that one statement grounds me in the truth of who God says I am. Friends can’t make you feel accepted all the time. Accomplishments will never truly make you feel secure. Having lots of people around you does not mean you won’t ever feel lonely. And chocolate, while it is deliciously distracting, is just a little too temporary.

So I turn to the One who is Everlasting, Prince of Peace, and Immanuel—God with us. I draw close to him so he can help me separate solid truth from shifting emotion.

And I’m reminded by the writer of the book of Hebrews that God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

HE is God on the Mountain AND in the Valley

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

On The Mountain, and In The Valley

As you walk through the valley of the unknown, you will find the footprints of Jesus both in front of you and beside you. -Charles Stanley

The man who gazes upon and contemplates day by day the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, and who has caught the glow of the reality that the Lord is not a theory but an indwelling power and force in his life, is as a mirror reflecting the glory of the Lord. -Alan Redpath

Moses knew what it meant to be on the mountain top.

Exodus 24 records that “Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days… Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:15-18 ESV) experiencing the presence and glory of God.

Moses also knew the anguish of the valley.

He came down off of the mountain carrying the two tablets that God had given him – “The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.” (Exodus 32:16), only to find that the children of Israel had “made for themselves a golden calf, worshipped it… and sacrificed to it” (Exodus 32:8 ESV)

Moses was so distraught and enraged that he “threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.” (Exodus 32:19 ESV)

“Mountain tops” and “valleys.” Have you experienced the glory and presence of the Lord in one instant, only to turn the page and battle sin and brokenness? Anger…lust… fear… pain of loss… worry… anxiety. And you find yourself questioning the validity of the work that God had begun to write in your life, and on your heart.

What I love though about the story, is how God not only spoke to Moses on the mountain top, but He also spoke to him in the valley, telling him how to deal with the pain and problems he had encountered (Exodus 32:33, 33:1&5).

He is God… on the mountain. And He is God, in the valley.

Notice what Moses does next. He first dealt with the issues of sin and idolatry (rather harshly I might add – 3000 men died) (Exodus 32:28).

He then “rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone.” On the top of the mountain, “the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there.” (Exodus 34:4-5 ESV)

God then proclaims His glorious nature to Moses;

The Lord, the Lord…

A God merciful and gracious…

Slow to anger…

Abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…

Forgiving iniquity… and transgression, and sin…

“And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshipped.” (Exodus 34:8 ESV)

What’s interesting is that after experiencing the presence of the Lord, and worshipping, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai… he did not know that his face shone because he had been talking with God.” (Exodus 34:29 ESV)

This reminds me of the passage in Acts 4 where the religious leaders “saw the boldness of Peter and John and, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 ESV)

If you haven’t noticed, the connection here is the presence of God.

Because of Christ, the Hebrews writer encourages us to “then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

Practice being in the presence of God every day. It brings cleansing… and healing… and it will draw you to worship. His presence brings light to your darkness… hope to your anguish, glory to your valley.

That will turn your life around.

Increased Awareness of God: Desirable AND Possible

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

The With-God Life

One of my directees runs an organization with 330 staff and a large budget. He is in and out of meetings all day and constantly interacts with people. He asked me, Is it really so important that I talk to God about things – even little things – all day long? My experience is that this continual conversation throughout the day makes life so much richer.

The authors of Joy Starts Here called it the “Immanuel lifestyle” because Immanuel means God-with-us. They describe it this way:

The Immanuel lifestyle is one in which we increasingly discover how Jesus does things and invites us to join him while we enjoy him. Increasing awareness of God’s interactive presence with us begins to enter ways we relate with others, live our lives, raise our children, do our work and drive our cars. It takes very little observation to notice that when we are aware of God’s presence and point of view, there is profound peace as we live that moment. Shalom is that sense that God is working everything together in a good way even when we are not sure how. We sense that God is not worried so why should we be troubled?   (pp. 130-131)

Such a life is not only possible, but also desirable.

As we learn to live this way, we don’t feel so alone in facing the challenges of life. God is the companion of our life. God is at our my side and I am at God’s side in a very real sense. God’s presence is more real than the keys I’m typing on my keyboard. They will not exist a thousand years from now, but my life with God will be more real than ever.

We can also ask God for courage and for good ideas and God will give them to us. We can ask God questions, especially, What do I need to know about this person I’m meeting for lunch? About this circumstance that baffles me?  About how to treat this pain in my shoulder?  God has good ideas and I’m eager to hear them – I need them!  As I open the Bible or listen to a sermon, I can always ask, What is it I need to know here? To absorb more deeply?  To rethink?

This conversational life is so much more expansive than simply dialing in and asking for a good parking place. I suppose there are times when that might be a good idea, but ours is a full-orbed relationship with God, not about getting more stuff or making life more convenient.

In this “with-God life,” we spend our days Enjoying the Presence of God. It’s a good thing. It’s a safe thing. Before the beginning of the world, God thought of you, and thought, What a great idea!  I can hardly wait until you show up! This with-God life is what we were built to run on. Without it, we are only half-alive.

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