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Posts tagged ‘God’

Does a Good God Want Me in a Bad Marriage?

SOURCE:  Sabrina Beasley McDonald/Family Life Ministry

Editor’s note: As the author states early in this article, her intent is to address unhappy marriages in which there is no unrepentant adultery, abandonment, or repeated physical abuse. As she writes, “They were simply struggling with what most marriages deal with: miscommunication, financial disagreements, selfish attitudes—the things often excused as ‘irreconcilable differences.’” These are the conditions in most problem marriages—and our desire is to encourage these couples to seek reconciliation. However, if you are married and are suffering from physical abuse, this article is not for you. You need help. We suggest reading Dennis Rainey’s article, “Responding to Physical Abuse,” which lists several practical steps to take.

A friend of mine finally walked out on her husband. She was tired of his excuses and irresponsibility. She was finished with his criticisms and cutting remarks. In her mind, enough was enough, and it was time to end the marriage.

Yet as she described their relationship, I couldn’t help but think that this marriage didn’t need to end in divorce. There was no unrepentant adultery, abandonment, or repeated physical abuse. They were simply struggling with what most marriages deal with: miscommunication, financial disagreements, selfish attitudes—the things often excused as “irreconcilable differences.”

When I later talked with her, I asked if she knew that God said, “I hate divorce …” (Malachi 2:16). Or that Jesus specifically addressed divorce in Matthew 19:8-9 saying, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

My friend said she heard this before and added, “But I cannot believe that a good God wants me to suffer in a bad marriage. He wants me to be happy.”

It was a response I’ve heard a dozen times from other women in similar circumstances, and it’s a question that plagues the hearts of many marriages today: If God is good, could He possibly want me to be unhappy? Doesn’t He see that staying in my current marriage would cause me a lot of pain? Can I call God “good” if He allows me to suffer in a bad marriage?

Does God want me to suffer?

No one enjoys pain. Quite the opposite—we long for contentment. The “pursuit of happiness” is so valued in America it’s an unalienable right in the Declaration of Independence.

It’s not wrong to desire pleasure. As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches that God delights in doing good things for His children. Jesus said, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

The problem is that God also calls us to righteousness, and often that requires giving up our personal happiness for the greater good. This is referred to as sacrifice, and it’s never easy, fun, or “happy.”

The apostle Paul reminds us that part of the Christian life is suffering for the sake of the cross. “… We are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:16-17, emphasis mine).

As Christians we are even called to rejoice and be glad in our trials because troubles are valuable to our character and spiritual growth. Romans 5:3-5a says, “… We also exult [rejoice] in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint … .”

So does God want us to suffer? Suffering for the sake of pain is not His desire, but there is a reason why we go through it.

You may be wondering how anything positive could possibly come from your hurting marriage. The apostle Paul wrote, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, emphasis mine). Christian marriage is not exempt from this principle. Just as we are called to sacrifice in our spiritual walk, we are also called to endure suffering in marriage for the sake of righteousness.

Even though we seldom can see how God is using present trials for our future benefit, He has promised to use them for good, and He is faithful to keep His word. Here are just four of the ways He can bring about His purposes:

First, God is conforming you to His image. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Voluntary self-sacrifice is a necessary part of the Christian life. It is often praised on mission fields or behind pulpits, but in marriage, it’s far less glamorous. Nevertheless, self-sacrifice in marriage is just as Christ-like in God’s eyes.

Staying married isn’t always easy. It often requires that you give up the right to win, stifle your pride, and defer to the needs of your spouse. But the more you practice these principles, the more you become like Christ.

Ephesians 5 explains this phenomenon by referring to the relationship between Christ and the Church. “As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her …” (verses 24-25). Christ loved the church so much He died for her. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. In the same way, as these verses explain, when you give up your life for your spouse, you are conforming to the image of Christ who gave up His life for you.

Second, God is using these sufferings to bring you to deeper faith and repentance. Difficult times always bring us to our knees. They remind us that we are not in control, and only God is. During this experience you should be asking yourself, “How much of my suffering in this situation is caused by my own sin?”

In addition, prayer and reading Scripture will deepen your relationship with Him as you learn to trust in His sovereign control. These hard times can even give you a greater compassion for others going through tribulations.

Third, God is using these sufferings to teach your children how to resolve conflict. God has given you the responsibility to exemplify a godly marriage to your children. Psalm 78:5-8 declares:

For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments … .

God set up the family so that His principles could be passed down through generations. Your struggles give you the ability to demonstrate how to keep a promise through better or worse, how to give and receive forgiveness, and what sacrifice looks like.

Fourth and most important, God desires for you and your spouse to be reconciled. Our God is a God of reconciliation—He shows this over and over again throughout Scripture as He extends grace, mercy, and forgiveness to His people. When we reconcile a broken marriage, it is a picture of His relationship with us, His bride.

A bad marriage in the Bible

The Bible isn’t silent on the issue of tough marriages. The Old Testament tells the story of a righteous man named Hosea who was called by God to marry the prostitute Gomer. Even though Hosea was a kind and loving husband, Gomer left him over and over and ran back to her old lifestyle. Hosea’s marriage was not under the best circumstances. I certainly wouldn’t say it was “good,” but nevertheless, God told Hosea to go get his bride and bring her home.

I can imagine that there were times when Hosea wanted to give up. Why would he stay married to a woman who didn’t love him? Why should he rescue her from the world she loved? Why not move on to someone else who deserved his love?

Hosea was committed to Gomer because he loved God more than he loved comfortable circumstances. More than anything, he wanted to please God, instead of himself. As a result, God used Hosea’s marriage as an example of His unconditional, covenant-keeping love. God told Hosea, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1, emphasis mine).

Because we are in a covenant with Him, God has said He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). In the same way, choosing to stay married to your spouse despite the circumstances shows a love that is unconditional, long-suffering, and reflects the nature of God (see 1 Corinthians 13). If you have no other reason to endure the suffering in your marriage, do it because you love God. Do it because He asked you to.

Restoring your relationship

If you are in a bad marriage, the answer is not to dissolve the relationship, but it is to restore your relationship the way God has restored our relationship with Him through Christ. Stick through the hard times and work on the tough issues. Even though your present suffering is being used for your good, God has not left you without hope—He desires for your marriage to be restored. Here are five suggestions that will help during your journey to reconciliation.

First, look at yourself. No one is perfect (Romans 3:10). It’s easy to see the mistakes and annoyances that our spouses have. It’s much harder to look inward and identify the ways we contributed to the problems. Think through your marriage and seek the areas where you said or did something wrong. Then ask forgiveness from your spouse. You will be amazed how this small step could eventually turn your bad marriage into a good one.

Second, identify your real enemy. At FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, we are reminded that our spouses are not the enemy—Satan is. Ephesians 6:12 says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” One of his greatest weapons is to trick you into blaming someone else, usually your spouse, for problems. When you start to bicker and quarrel, remember that your true enemy is the one who seeks to destroy your marriage.

Third, meditate on God’s Word daily. The proper way to battle Satan is with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). You won’t know how to use a sword if you’ve never handled one. The same is true for God’s Word—you won’t know how to wield its power if you don’t read and study. When Satan attacks, the Word of God will give you wisdom and the power to withstand his fiery darts.

Not only is God’s Word a weapon, it is also a guide for life. There are dozens of Scriptures regarding wisdom in everyday living—conflict resolution, handling money, roles of husbands and wives, parenting. You can find the answers you need if you will only look for them. Supplement your reading with Christian authors who can help you understand biblical concepts.

Fourth, appreciate your spouse. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Perhaps you’ve forgotten that your spouse has good qualities. At one time you were attracted to him or her in some way. What were those things that made you fall in love? Once you’ve thought of something, verbalize it or put it in a letter. You’ll be amazed at what a kind word can do for your relationship.

Fifth, pray for your spouse. It’s difficult to harbor bitterness against someone when you’re praying for that person. The more you pray, the more God will change your heart, and you will see a dramatic difference in your attitude. If possible, begin praying together. In his book Two Hearts Praying as One, Dennis Rainey says, “When you pray together, you multiply your joys, divide your sorrows, add to your experiences with God together, and help subtract your haunting past from your life.”

Finally, take action to restore your marriage. What makes a marriage good is hard work and a resolve to stay married. No matter how easy it seems for other people, no marriage can work automatically. Don’t let Satan fool you into thinking that no one else experiences problems or that yours aren’t solvable. If you remove divorce as an option, you’ll find that there are ways to build into your relationship: Attend a Weekend to Remember®, read articles from Christian marriage websites, read books and materials from Christian marriage experts. And then apply these biblical principles to your life.

Pursue all avenues of reconciliation before divorce: professional Christian counseling, intervention with your pastor, and personal forgiveness. Read “Finding a Christian Counselor” to help you find the assistance you need.

There’s no secret formula to dealing with a difficult marriage. Just because you are suffering now, don’t give up on the blessing that God is using to mold you and your spouse into His image. It may not seem like a good marriage at this time, but wait and see what God has in store for you … I’m willing to bet you’ll be glad you did.

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Five Key Things To Know About Marriage

#1: Marriage is not all about you. It’s not about your happiness and self-fulfillment. It’s not about getting your needs met. It’s about going through life together and serving God together and serving each other. It’s about establishing a family. It’s about committing your lives to each other even though you may be very different in 10, 20, or 40 years from the people you are now. 

#2: You are about to learn a painful lesson–you are both very selfish people. This may be difficult to comprehend during the happy and hazy days of courtship, but it’s true, and it shocks many couples during their first years of marriage. It’s important to know this revelation of selfishness is coming, because then you can make adjustments for it, and you will be a lot better off.

#3: The person you love the most is also the person who can hurt you the deepest. That’s the risk and pain of marriage. And the beauty of marriage is working through your hurt and pain and resolving your conflicts and solving your problems.

#4: You can’t make it work on your own. It’s obvious that marriage is difficult–just look at how many couples today end in divorce. This is why it’s so critical to center your lives and your marriage on the God who created marriage. To make your marriage last for a lifetime, you need to rely on God for the power and love and strength and wisdom and endurance you need.

#5: Never stop enjoying each other. Always remember that marriage is an incredible gift to be enjoyed. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.”

Enjoy the little things of life with your spouse: the food you enjoy together at home or in restaurants … the movies you like … the little inside jokes nobody else understands except for you … the times you make each other laugh … the games you play together.

And focus on making memories together: Plan special dates and weekend getaways. Make sure you reserve time for each other after you have kids. When you are old, you won’t look back and remember how great it was to buy that new furniture or watch that great show on television. You’re going to remember what you did together and saw together and created together.

The Safe Place

(Adapted from Strong Winds & Crashing Waves by Terry Wardle, 83-85)

A Spirit-led exercise to practice the presence of the Lord

Communicating truth by creating word pictures is employed all through Scripture. Isaiah said that God gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11).  The Psalmist talks about being covered by the wings of God and finding refuge under his feathers (Psalm 91:4).  In both cases, the Lord was speaking metaphorically, creating a picture in the reader’s mind so that he or she could better comprehend God’s protective care.  Creating a safe place within is a way that the Spirit communicates truth through a surrendered and sanctified imagination.  When the Spirit does speak, the truth will always be consistent with the teachings of Scripture, which is in itself the test for what one is seeing, sensing, and hearing during the exercise.

The safe place exercise is a follows:

* Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

* Take several deep breaths, letting them out slowly.

* Begin to whisper words of thanks and praise to the Lord.

* After a few moments, invite the Holy Spirit to take over your imagination.

* Ask the Spirit to create within your mind a safe place where you can meet the Lord.  It may be an imaginary place or somewhere you have actually been before that is special, like a cabin, beach, or spot along a quiet stream.

* Rest there for as long as you like, enjoying all the surroundings.  If you experience some dissonance or distraction, ask the Holy Spirit to take it away in the name of Jesus.

* When ready, invite the Lord to join you in that place.  If that frightens you, ask him to come as the Lamb, or simply allow you to feel his presence.

* Once there, notice the warmth of his love.   Let it soak into your being.  If you are allowing Christ to be there, notice his posture, eyes, and extended arms.  Draw close to him if you desire.

* When ready, tell Jesus how you feel about him.  Then ask how he feels about you.  He may respond with words or maybe actions.  Either way, experience his acceptance and delight.

* If you are ready to conclude the exercise, simply spend a few moments in thanks and praise.

* Take a few deep breaths, letting them out slowly.

* Amen

The Safe Place exercise may take time to develop as a [spiritual] skill.  Many believers, accustomed to a more cognitive expression of the Christian life may have never experienced the Lord in this way.  The idea of giving the Lord access to their “creative imagination” might seem like a foreign concept.  It is important that the believer practice this spiritual exercise every day.  This will be not only a place of peace with the Lord, but it also will be the entree into experiencing the Lord in the healing of past traumatic woundings.

Four Promises of Forgiveness

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 207.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

I once heard a joke that described a frequent failure in forgiving. A woman went to her pastor for advice on improving her marriage. When the pastor asked what her greatest complaint was, she replied, “Every time we get into a fight, my husband gets historical.” When her pastor said, “You must mean hysterical,” she responded, “I mean exactly what I said; he keeps a mental record of everything I’ve done wrong, and whenever he’s mad, I get a history lesson!”

Food for Thought
Take a moment today to remember the Four Promises of Forgiveness:
1. I will not dwell on this incident.
2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
4. I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

Then take a moment to remember something else: This is the way God forgives you. It’s natural for us to read the Four Promises of Forgiveness as another set of laws to which we’re presently failing to live up; however, the gospel reminds us that they should be read first and foremost as God’s commitment to us because of the sacrifice of his Son. That commitment says that he will never “get historical” in bringing up sins for which we have been forgiven!

Is there an area in life where you feel condemned even though you’ve genuinely repented before God? Take a moment to hear God speaking the Four Promises of Forgiveness to you with regard to that particular issue. As you read them again, try adding your name to the beginning of each promise as a reminder that God speaks them personally to you. Remember Romans 8:1 applies to you, not just other Christians: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

When you accept this and apply it to your own life, prepare to be pleasantly surprised how much easier it will become to apply the Four Promises of Forgiveness to others who have hurt you.

When Bad Things Happen

(by Billy Graham Rapid Response Team)

In the wake of the Haiti earthquake and the remaining devastation, many people ask, “Where was God?” Through life, there are many of our own personal “earthquakes” and other disasters, whether it be the death of a loved one, an unwanted divorce, a wayward child, or a terminal illness, to name a few. Read below for some of the most commonly-asked questions about life’s challenges and get biblical answers.

What does the Bible say about why we suffer? God created us because He loves us. God never intended for tragedy and prejudice, wars and hatred, lust and greed, jealousy and pride. God meant for Earth to be a paradise, a place where here would be no death.

But a man and a woman, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God. This act of rebellion said, “I don’t need you, God. I can build my world without you.” As a result, mankind must suffer and die. Physical death is just the death of the body, but the spirit lives on. If your spirit is separated from God for eternity, it will be lost forever.

God has provided a rescue in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Gen 3; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Psalms 46:1-2

Is God angry with me?
No, God is not angry with you. In John 3:16, the Bible says that He loves everyone. However, because we live in an imperfect world, we all deal with good and bad. God is aware of everything that happens and has the ability to take what was intended for evil and use for good. The evil in this world does not render God powerless. It is quite the opposite. He promises to not only be with us but, if we are willing to live life as He created it to be lived: in relationship with Him, to guide us into a life where we can have peace and live without fear.

John 3:16-17; Romans 8:28; James 1:1-4; John 10:10

Why me?
It often feels like difficult circumstances are directed at us. We live in an imperfect world, and the Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust. We all live through painful and uncomfortable things. Who are we trusting when those things happen to us? Are we self-reliant or do we rely on God? If we reach out to God in time of need, then we are accessing the One who created the universe. The Bible says that He is waiting for our response. He has already made the invitation through His Son Jesus. Why you? Because He loves you. He wants you to look to Him so He can rescue you and bring you peace.

Romans 5:8; John 11:1-44

What good can come out of this?
There are no easy answers, just simple ones: growth and glory. We grow because when life hurts, we pay attention and we find out what is real and whom we can trust. In the Bible, in James 1:1- 4 tells us when we face trials, we can see it as a positive thing in our life because ultimately we are going to grow from it. That’s hard to realize when our pain is all we can see and feel. But, after you’ve experienced life as a follower of Jesus, and you’ve experienced His faithfulness, then you know it’s true.

The other answer is a bit more complicated, and it is found in a Bible story about a blind man that Jesus heals in John 9. The man didn’t do anything to deserve to be blind, and when asked why the man was blind, Jesus answered, “So you can see who I am.” He healed the blind man so that the blind man and everyone around him would be amazed by the supernatural power of Jesus and know that He is Who He say He is. It was the best gift He could give them, and us. We are attracted to greatness. God is the greatest of them all and He desires to be with us.

James 1:1-4; John 9; Romans 8:28

How do I recover spiritually from this?
The natural response is to deny that you are affected by the crisis. The truth is that crisis affects everybody it touches, but it affects each person differently. David, in Psalms, tells his soul to praise the Lord. He was in a dark place emotionally, but he knew that praising God was necessary and that calling on Him could effect the outcome of the situation. Psalm 42 and Psalm 88 are Psalms of lament. The writers were despondent, yet they sought God in spite of feelings. Counselors will tell you that feeling will follow fact. So, there are some things that we should do to recover:

” Acknowledge your need for God.
” Read God’s Word, the Bible (or listen to it on tape or DVD. Psalms is a good place to start).
” See if there are others who will pray with you.
” Look for ways to serve others.
” Stay connected with a body of Christ followers (small group, activity group, service group, church).
” Find small ways to be thankful and ways to express that to God and others.

Psalm 9:10; 34:17; 50:15; 145:18-19; James 5:13-16

How can I be strong when my life is falling apart?
When life is difficult, we look to God and find out that He has grace. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Bible tell us that His grace is sufficient for you, for his power is made perfect in our weakness. First, we must give our situation and life to God; this is the hardest part, because we feel more secure of we think we are in control of things. Once we give these things over to Him, He is going to give us the ability to stand up and endure.

It is hard to admit weakness. That is what it takes to act in humility and allow God to take control of your situation. Acknowledge to God that He needs to bear your burdens because you can’t anymore. Jesus longs for you to come to Him and know Him personally.

Matthew 11:28-29; 2 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Peter 5:7

Hope for the Depressed

by Ed Welch

Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying—your world is dark, heavy, painful. Some days you think that physical pain might be easier to endure; at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression goes to your very soul, corrupting everything in its path. Dead but walking is one way to describe it. You feel numb, but you still remember when you actually felt something. Somehow that makes it harder to bear.

You aren’t alone, of course. Depression affects as much as 25% of the population. But statistics offer little comfort. In fact, a depressive spin on them can make you feel worse: You wonder why so many people are depressed, and you’re afraid that means there is no solution to the problem. Yet there is another perspective. God tells us that he cares about one wandering sheep in a hundred (Matthew 18:10–14) and counts the hairs on individual heads. If he has this much compassion for a solitary, lost individual, he certainly cares for you and such a large group of suffering people. You may not understand how he cares for you, but you can be certain that he is.

SUFFERING MAKES US AWARE OF GOD

You are suffering, and suffering brings God into view. That’s the way it always happens. The soldier who escapes from a treacherous battle will instinctively thank God. The stock broker who just lost a fortune might instinctively curse him. When hardships come we either cry out to God for help, shake our fist at him, or do both. There is actually a picture of this in the Bible: throughout history God has taken his people out into the wilderness, and you are certainly in the wilderness.

The journey in the wilderness is intended, in part, to reveal what is in our hearts, and to teach us to trust God in both good times and hard times. Why does he do this? To show us those things that are most important. Don’t forget that God takes his children into the wilderness. He even led his only Son into the wilderness. We shouldn’t be surprised if he takes us there as well.

While you are in the wilderness what are you seeing in your own heart? How are you relating to God? Do you avoid him? Ignore him? Get angry at him? Do you act as though he is very far away and too busy with everything else to attend to your suffering? Are you frustrated that God is powerful enough to end your suffering but he hasn’t? In your depression, let God reveal your heart. You might find spiritual issues that contribute to or even cause your depression.

WHICH PATH WILL YOU CHOOSE?

You are on one of two roads: faith or isolated independence. On the road of faith you are seeking and following God. You are calling out to him. You don’t understand what is happening, but you have not lost sight of how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ assure you that he is good. You feel like you are walking in the dark, but in your best moments you are putting one foot in front of the other as an expression of your trust in God. Whether you know it or not you are being heroic. On this path, although you are suffering, you are still able to notice and marvel that God’s Spirit is empowering you to trust him through darkness and pain.

The other path is the more common one, even among Christians. Even if you believe that God has revealed himself to you in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t seem to make much difference. You don’t feel as though you are consciously avoiding God. You are just trying to survive. But if you look closely you will notice that you are pushing God away. Look at the tell-tale signs:

  • You have no hope, even though Scripture, God’s words to you, offers hope on almost every page. Here’s just one example, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23).
  • You think life is meaningless, even though you are a servant of the King and every small step of obedience resonates throughout eternity. This is God’s purpose for you today, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
  • You think God doesn’t care, even though Scripture makes it clear that we run from God, not vice versa. Listen to what God says to you, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7).
  • In other words, in many areas of life, you simply do not believe what God says.

Practical Strategies for Change

Depression tries to tell us what is true and what isn’t. For example, it says that you will never feel any different, and you can’t continue to live in such a condition. It says that God doesn’t care, and no one loves you. It tries to persuade you that nothing matters. Know, however, that depression lies! You have to tell it the truth, rather than listen to its interpretation of life.

Do you remember times when you were grouchy and everything in the world looked horrible? Or you had PMS and it colored your interpretation of other people? Our emotions are loud, but they do not tell the whole story.

TURN TO GOD AND LISTEN

Turn toward God, and instead of listening to your depression, listen to what he says about himself. The center of his message to you is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, became the Son of Man. He obeyed the Father perfectly, emptied himself, and became your servant. He died to give you life. Now he is the King, and through his death he brings you into his kingdom. Here on earth the kingdom of heaven is riddled with suffering, but we know the King is with us and our suffering is only for a short while. We also know that the King takes our suffering, which seems senseless, and makes it profitable in his kingdom. Read all of Romans 8 and pay special attention to these words, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28–29).

This is God’s message to you. Beg for grace and mercy so you can hear it over the din of your depression.

The Spirit of God speaks most clearly to you in the Bible, so take the small step of opening it and reading it. If you can’t, ask someone else to read it to you. Ask God to speak to you through his words in the Bible. Ask a friend to talk to you about the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. Any friend who knows that good news would love to talk about it.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • 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 talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 86 and Psalm 88 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 in unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you, and 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).

Gradually a new goal will come into view. Without doubt you will still want depression to be gone, but you will also develop a vision of walking humbly with your God even in the midst of pain. When you read Scripture, you will find that many people have walked the same path.

CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL CAUSES OF YOUR DEPRESSION

Next, consider some of the spiritual issues that might play a part in your depression. There is no one cause of depression, but there are some common paths that provoke a depressive spiral. Identifying these in your life may help you move out of depression and avoid it in the future.

Depression rarely appears overnight. When you look closely, you usually find that it crept up on you gradually. Take a closer look at its progression. Personal problems that are left spiritually unattended can, in susceptible people, lead to depression. Do you see any of these things in your life?

  • If you made someone besides God the center of your life, and you lose him or her, you will feel isolated and without purpose. Can you see how this can give way to depression? You made another person your reason for living and now, without him or her, you feel hopeless and unable to go on. You may not realize it, but the Bible tell us that this is idol worship—you are worshipping what God created instead of him.
  • If you feel like you failed in the eyes of other people, and your success and the opinions of others is of critical importance, you can slip into depression. Can you see the spiritual roots? Your success and the opinions of others have become your gods, they are more important to you than serving Christ.
  • If you feel like you did something very wrong, and you want to manage your sin apart from the cross of Jesus, depression is inevitable. We always want to believe that we can do something—like feeling really bad for our sins—but that is just pride. We actually think that we can pay God back, but this attitude minimizes the beauty of the cross and Jesus’ full payment for sin.
  • If you are angry and don’t practice forgiveness, you can easily slide into depression. The simple formula is sadness + anger = depression. What makes us angry shows us what we love and what rights we hold dear. Unforgiveness shows us that we are not willing to trust God to bind up our broken hearts and to judge justly. Deal with your sadness and anger by pouring your heart out to God. Use the psalms as your prayers. Ask for faith so that you can trust God to be your defender and your helper.

Even students of depression who reject the Bible acknowledge that anger, resentment, and jealousy can contribute to the beginnings of depression. So take a hard look. Look for sin patterns you can confess. This is hard, but it is not depressing. If punishment was on the other side of confession, it would be foolish to follow such a path. But get to the gospel of Jesus and on the other side you will find full forgiveness, love, hope, and joy. They are yours for the asking. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME

Now, take one small step at a time. Granted, it seems impossible. How can you 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 take one step at a time 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 you must tap into every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: take one minute at a time, read one short Bible passage, ask for help, try to care about someone else, move outside yourself, ask someone how they are doing, and so on.

When in doubt, confess your unbelief, trust in Jesus, and look for someone to love. A wise depressed person once said, “The reason I get up—after years of depression—is that I want to love one other person.”

GUIDELINES FOR 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?
  • And, if your physician is prescribing two medications, will it be difficult to determine which medication is effective?

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.

Medication 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 a wise and trusted person from your church walk come along side of you. They can remind you that God is good, that you can find power to know God’s love and love others, and, yes, that joy is possible, even during depression.

DEALING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

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

Remember, depression doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says you are all alone, no one loves you, God doesn’t care, 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 you are alone and 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.

PERSEVERE IN HOPE

Will your depression go away? Perhaps. If you follow these suggestions, your depression will, at least, be changed. But to guarantee that you will be depression-free is like guaranteeing that you will never have suffering in your life. The cross of Christ is a sign to us that we will share in the sufferings of Jesus rather than be free of all hardships.

Your hope rests on something much deeper than the alleviation of pain. Depression can’t rob you of hope because your hope is in a person, and that person, Jesus, is alive and with you. The apostle Paul put his suffering on a scale and found that it was out-weighed by all the benefits he had in Christ. Of course, that kind of hope and vision doesn’t come overnight, but it does come. Set your sights high. You can set a course where you say “Amen” with Paul.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at CCEF. He has counseled for over twenty-five years and has written many articles, booklets, and books including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Blame It on the Brain?; Depression: A Stubborn Darkness; Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction; and Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest.

Related Articles:

The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God

Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4

by Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., RPM Ministries (www.rpmministries.org)
 
 

Learning How to Pray in Christ’s School of Prayer

– Prepare to Pray: Meditation—“Our Father Which Art in Heaven”

1. Meditate on the perfect fatherly character of God: Our Father in heaven.

2. Contemplate the nature of God’s fatherhood: Our Father of holy love.

3. Reflect on the Body of Christ: Our Father, not only my Father.

4. Enjoy God the Father’s full attention and acceptance: Bask in His fatherly grace.

– Commune with God: Adoration—“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

1. Praise God for Who He is: Worship, magnify, exalt, and glorify your heavenly Father.

2. Thank God for what He does: Express your gratitude for all His grace-gifts, for His works.

3. Pray that the whole world would be in awe of God: All the earth grasping, enjoying, and exalting the character (name) of God.

4. Set apart God as the supreme desire of your heart: Let your daily mission statement be to exalt God by enjoying God.

– Honor the King: Intercession—“Thy Kingdom Come”

1. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule in your heart: Surrender to God’s governance.

2. Pray for a widening of God’s rule in all people’s hearts: Salvation.

3. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule on planet Earth: Christian living (make a difference).

4. Pray for the soon return of Christ: Second Coming.

5. Pray that you will live for God’s kingdom and not for your own: Total allegiance.

– Radically Commit: Submission/Direction—“Thy Will Be Done”

1. Pray for the right pleasure: That everything you do is motivated by the desire to bring God pleasure.

2. Pray for calm assurance: The understanding that God’s glory and your good are inseparable, that the Father’s will is always good and best.

3. Pray for clear discernment: That you will know God’s will for your personal life, family, church, work, community, country, and world.

4. Pray for radical obedience: That God would grant you the courage to do His will.

5. Pray for supernatural power: That God would empower you to obey His will.

6. Pray with brutal honesty: Share the desires of your heart, any confusion, doubts, and perplexity with your heavenly Father.

7. Pray with other-centered focus: That family, church, community, national, and world leaders would know and do God’s will.

– Invite God-Rescue: Supplication—“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

1. Confess humbly (Give): Acknowledge your spiritual poverty, admitting that without God you are and have nothing. Pray for the faith to believe that all you need is God and what He chooses to provide.

2. Asks unselfishly (Us, Our): Pray for others and for yourself.

3. Request wisely (This Day, Daily): Pray for today’s needs. Trust God for today’s supply. Ask God to give you nothing more and nothing less than exactly what you need and can handle.

4. Entreat practically (Bread): Pray for physical, material, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual needs. Pray for freedom from worry as you trust God to supply your every need.

– Savor the Savior’s Grace: Confession—“Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against Us”

1. Seek enlightenment: Specifically confess known sins and ask God to reveal hidden sins.

2. Repent humbly: Your debt is immeasurable; His grace is infinite.

3. Enjoy forgiveness: Claim Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance. Your slate is wiped clean!

4. Grant forgiveness: Forgive all those who have hurt you/sinned against you physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually.

5. Seek reconciliation: Go to anyone who you have sinned against to restore the relationship.

– Triumph Over Temptation: Petition—“Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil”

1. Seek protection: Ask God not to allow Satan even to tempt you to sin.

2. Seek boundaries: Ask God to keep you from situations where you are most prone to sin— your besetting sins, areas of vulnerability, temptations, etc.

3. Seek victory: Ask God to defeat sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil in your life.

4. Seek faith: Ask God to help you to trust His awesome power as your only hope for triumph.

– Confidently Trust God: Glorification—“For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever, Amen”

1. Trust God (For): Believe that since God is the Almighty, Eternal King that He can answer.

2. Glorify God (Thine): Pray that God will be glorified by your prayers.

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