Category Archives: Depression

I Tried to Commit Suicide

My Attempt to Exit

If I can accomplish anything with this blog, I want to let people know that Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. Part of that is allowing myself to be as transparent as reasonably possible.

In recent posts you have read about my personal struggles with depression, and thankfully that has been an encouragement to more than a few. Granted, some of you might have been confused, for you may be under the impression that a pastor of a church… a man of God… a “reverend”… should never get depressed. However, people from all walks of life – including those who have faith in God – can find themselves depressed, the reasons for which are not always easy to determine.

But what many, if not most of you may be unaware of, is that I actually attempted suicide when I was a teenager. I was within moments of pulling the trigger of a loaded 12-gauge shotgun that I had placed under my chin when my father (I believe prompted by the Holy Spirit) knocked on my bedroom door. That was the only time I came that close, but it was not the last time I seriously considered taking my life.

In the late 1990’s God had to do major surgery to remove the cancer of legalistic pride that had infected me. I had become self-righteous, religious, and prideful of my career, money, and stuff. However, in one fell swoop the Lord took it all away, leaving me with nothing but a faithful wife who I didn’t deserve, and a worried, scared family. Where I ended up was not rock bottom, but a depression that nearly put me six feet under. Suicide was an option in the past, so it became an ever-present option once again.

This is not the place, nor do I have the time, to go into every detail, but it wasn’t the friends and family who begged me to see the light; it wasn’t the multiple times every week of sitting with counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists; it wasn’t the anti-depressants I regularly consumed; and it certainly wasn’t the alcohol I began to use for the first time that released me from the “dungeon of despair.”  What changed it all for me were three main things: first, believing that God still loved me! – despite the times I cursed Him; second, believing the promise that God still had a plan for my life; and thirdly (but most importantly), the unmerited, undeserved, matchless grace of God.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m still recovering. In my personal opinion, based on what I’ve experienced and witnessed, when one crosses that line of attempting suicide, the Enemy will forever keep that temptation in reserve. Therefore, just as I sometimes act judgmentally and legalistic, even though I try not to, faint remembrances of the “suicide option” sometimes filter through my defenses. But it is in those moments that I remind myself of the Truth that set me free from the bondage of sin and death, and it is that golden key – the faithful promises of God – which is big and heavy enough to squash down any intruder.

EXIT, the Movie

This morning I took a few moments, not even 40 minutes, to watch Ray Comfort’s short new film, EXIT: The Appeal of Suicide”. Tears began to fill my eyes as I empathized with the familiar feelings of hopelessness and despair expressed by individuals interviewed in the movie.

However, toward the end of the movie I was able to wipe from my eyes tears of joy as some, not all, came to the realization that life is worth living.

Please, PLEASE!… if nothing more than to help a friend… take a few minutes to click on the link and watch the film below. It’s free, it won’t take long, and might just save a life… maybe even yours.

If you need help, or someone to talk with, please don’t wait. You are not alone in your pain, despite how you feel. There is always hope, always a reason to live, and your life is far more valuable than you realize. Think about it, Someone even allowed Himself to be ripped apart and nailed to a beam of wood so that you wouldn’t have to die!

If you don’t know anywhere else to turn, call 800-273-8255 and speak to someone who can help, or click on their website SuicidePreventionLifeline.org right now!

Your life is priceless, so live it.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Depression, Life/Death, self-worth

Imperfect Me

Are any of you perfect? You might think you are, but I’d bet you’re not. I know I’m not. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty messed up.

Just today I was reminded how flawed I am. I’ve screwed up so much it ain’t even funny.

For one, I got into a heated argument with my wife which led me to say things in anger, things I wish I’d not said. Two, it was made obvious that I’ve made some poor decisions in parenting, some of which will haunt me till the day I die. Third, I’ve made some bad decisions in my past, and tonight I wish I could roll back time (cue the Cher music).

On top of all the above, I’m facing issues for which I have no good answers, and I’m not even sure there are any. Do you know how helpless that can make one feel?

Wednesday night I shared an impromptu sermon based on something I had written earlier in the day, and today I was reminded of it. I had been to the church parsonage and seen the work being done, took a picture, and wrote the following.

This a blessing to behold, and further confirmation that God is not only doing something now, but will be doing something more in the future to bring glory to the wonderful name of Jesus.

And to be honest, I’m as clueless as anyone to what plans the Lord has for this little old church, but plans He has. We are just going to be faithful, prayerful, worshipful, and hopeful (not with an earthly hope, but one that rests in His promises that never fail)!”

Faithful. Just keep doing what’s right, even when it’s hard. Don’t be like the one who gets inpatient and steps out in his own strength to accomplish what is not in God’s timing. The results of faithless action never produce a positive outcome. See Proverbs 28:20.

Prayerful. If Dory had been a Christian fish, she might have said, “Just keep praying, praying, praying.” Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).

Worshipful. God deserves our worship. But not only that, some of the Israelite’s greatests battles were won when, instead of swords and spears, the first line of offence – their Spec Ops Choir – carried trumpets and lyrics into combat.

Hopeful. Why be worshipful? Why praise? Because we have a hope that is different from the world’s kind, the kind that is more like wishful thinking – like, “Now that I’ve picked the numbers, I HOPE I win the lottery.” No, we can be hopeful in fact, because God’s promises, when made, are as good as done – actually, they’re already done – in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20)!

I’m not perfect. I’m not a source of unfailing wisdom. I’m not the best husband, father, preacher, pastor, or anything. I have no clue how God is going to get glory from what He has planned to accomplish in my life, but I’ve read the first chapter of Ephesians, and one promise is that I’m going to bring him glory and praise (v. 12). It’s as good as done!

And, even though I feel pretty weak and helpless, He wants me to understand that what’s going to be accomplished will not be determined by my own ability, but His “exceeding greatness and power” which raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-20)!

So, even though I’m not perfect (which is an understatement), my faith is in One who is, and He keeps his promises (Prov. 22:6; Isaiah 55:11; Matt. 16:18).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Depression, Life Lessons, Parenting, Relationships and Family, self-worth, worship

A Giant’s Depression

Not long ago I did a couple of posts dealing with depression. As best I can tell, the posts were well-received.

One of the main points I wanted to make in those posts was that depression isn’t always something we can help, but something that accosts us no matter our will to be positive.

The following article, “11 Reasons Spurgeon Was Depressed,” was published by the The Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary, and I want to thank a friend of mine, Kevin Woodruff (Bryan College Librarian) for posting it on Facebook.

If you have found yourself depressed, and wonder if it’s only a spiritual matter, the following look at the great Charles H. Spurgeon, a giant among godly men, should give you hope.

“11 Reasons Spurgeon Was Depressed”

 

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Flawed and Loved

Here’s another insightful guest post. I’m so glad God loves me, flaws and all!


Guest Post by: Dorissa Vanover

“Duh!” “How Stupid!” “Dummy!” These words are the words that fly through my head when I’ve made a silly mistake.

I would never, ever talk to anyone else that way, but, for whatever reason, I feel quite free to berate myself soundly at any time or at any place. I simply cannot cut myself any slack – especially when I goof.

I would really like to blame my upbringing. Maybe my parents are the ones who turned this horrible voice on inside my head. No, it wasn’t them. They tried their very best to make me feel good about myself. This voice is one I developed all by myself!

“She’s just being kind.”  These are the words in my head when someone pays me a compliment. If someone says my hair looks nice, I run to the bathroom mirror to try to figure out what my hair has done with itself since I sprayed it this morning – didn’t look so hot to me then.  I love compliments, don’t get me wrong―it’s just that even if I was tempted to believe them, I probably couldn’t see what was worth complimenting. I mean really, my hair looks nice – um – must be something wrong with her eyesight! 

We’ve all probably heard that it takes 10 positives to outweigh one negative. I believe it.  If ten people complimented me on my appearance and one person looked straight into my eyes and said, “You look tired. Are you feeling okay?”,  I would run to the mirror to check out the tired eyes.

I don’t think I’m the only person in the world who looks for the flaws instead of the attributes when I’m evaluating myself. I’m trying to figure out how to stop it before it gets way too far out of hand.

The first step for me is to remember, “God didn’t make any junk.”  I’ve always known that’s true, especially when I look at my husband or my sons and their families. They are absolutely wonderful people and I’m so very proud of them. I need to remind myself that God created me, too. He loves me, even though I’m flawed.

The next step for me is to be as kind and gentle with my words to myself as I am to others. Have you ever tried to list five good qualities about yourself? I could list many more than that for the other people in my life, but to find five really good qualities about myself is a bit of a stretch. I’ll need to work on that.

The best step I can take is to trust that God has a plan for my life. He put me here for a reason or reasons that I may, or may not, get to know. If I stay focused on Him and His goodness, I won’t have too much time to worry about myself and my flaws.

The final step is to realize that the Bible is very plain about loving others as we love ourselves. Well, guess what? If I don’t have a healthy self-esteem, if I don’t value myself, how will I be able to value others? If I’m always looking inward at myself, how will I be able to hold my head high, look into the faces of the people God sends my way, and share with them all the love God has shared with me?

So, for today, my plan is to prayerfully focus on God and His mercy, treating each of His children, even myself, with the love He expects us to show.

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Filed under abuse, Depression, Guest Posts, Love of God, self-worth

Changing the Current

A Guest Post by: Isaiah41v10

I grew up as a missionary kid in a country in Asia where we could swim most of the year.  We were blessed to have a swimming pool at our house.  It wasn’t very big and it wasn’t very deep, and it was strongly chlorinated, but it was a great place to spend the afternoon when the temperature was climbing into the 40’s (Celsius of course).

One of the things we enjoyed doing in the pool when we had a group of friends over was getting a whirlpool going.  Together we marched around the inside edge of the pool, all going in the same direction, until we had set a strong current swirling. We would be carried along by our own current, around and around.

At some point we would decide to go in the opposite direction.  We all struggled to stop in the strong current, turn ourselves and work against the flow to get the current going the other way.  The water in the pool churned with the conflict of opposing currents.  Eventually everything was moving in the opposite direction and we were carried along as before, but going the other way.

I was reminded of this episode from my past recently, when considering my response to depression. I have experienced many episodes of depression, and have recently been overwhelmed by it again.  I started to realise that I needed to change my thinking and my response to the negative thoughts, but had very little will to do so.  It was almost like I wanted to remain in that current of negativity and despair. There was a current in my mind that was pushing strongly one way, and when I tried to change direction my self-made current acted against me.

Psalm 42 in the Bible points the way forward in this situation. The psalmist is downcast and miserable, “My tears have been my food day and night”, but he tells himself to remember God:

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

It may not change how we feel in that moment, but somehow we can start to change the current of our thoughts, trusting in God’s ability to preserve us.

Recently John Piper had an article about depression on the Desiring God website. He wrote there about enduring depression with patience,

“Acknowledge that only divine power, and I mean mighty power, can sustain you and me through the tests like this.”

We need the power of God to change our thinking and reverse the negative currents in our minds.

 

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Filed under Depression, Guest Posts

Doing, Being, and Identity

Two Questions

Would you take just a second and think about something? Take a second and think about the following two questions:

  1. “What do you want to be?”
  2. “What do you do?”

When would you ask these questions? I bet I can answer that for you.

The first question (“What do you want to be?“) is one that you would pose to a young child. It would be asked with the qualifier of “when you grow up.” I’ve asked kids this question many, many times, and the answers are always entertaining. Children want to be things like firemen, doctors, cowboys, baseball stars, movie stars, even school bus drivers. Some even want to become the mythical, like super heroes, monsters, or unicorns.

When you ask a child what he wants to be when he grows up, all you are doing is opening up before him a world of possibility – the sky’s the limit. The question doesn’t limit him in any way. On the contrary, it affirms his potential to be anything he wants to be.

The second question (What do you do?) is one that you would likely ask an adult. Think about it, you wouldn’t ask a 10-year-old, “What do you do for a living?” Obviously, the child is just a student and preparing for the riggers of future employment as a “safe space” attorney, not an actual lawyer, or doctor, or super model.

But when you pose this question to an adult, instead of offering him the opportunity to dream big and affirming his ambitions, you cause him to face the here and now, the cold reality, the fact of what his childhood dreams have turned into. Unfortunately, affirming and praising one’s potential is a whole lot easier than affirming one’s present state.

When you ask a child what she wants to be when she grows up there is the possibility her dreams will come true. When you ask someone what he does for a living the answer is what he is doing, not what he is dreaming, and what he is doing might be all he ever does.

Is Doing Being?

I have always struggled with the temptation to find my identity in what I “do.” In other words, I’ve never wanted to just do things, I’ve always prided myself in being things. Do any of you feel the same way?

I have been a pest control technician, an industrial engine builder, a Sunday School teacher, an adjunct professor, a Level I Nuclear Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Technician, a sales manager, an eyeglass maker, an insurance salesman, a preacher, a pastor, a chaplain, a song writer, and an author. Right now I am a school bus driver and driver trainer, along with being a bi-vocational pastor.

No, I wasn’t a pilot. I just flew a lot when I worked in the nuclear field. (circa 1989)

I have always liked name tags, badges, lapel pins, and titles…because they give me identity.

But in reality, honestly, none of those things are really me, are they? They are only what I do. If I were to quit pastoring or driving a bus, would I cease to exist? Of course not! Even if  you were to take away my freedom, I might be labeled an “inmate” or “refugee,” but not even those labels would be me, only the condition of my existence.

Yet, I still find my deepest self wanting to be identified with something, to be known for something, to have a title, to find worth in what I have done or am doing.

I do what I do, but I am what I am. On the other hand, I do what I do because I am what I am. So, what am I to make of it?

What I Am

I am created in the image of Almighty God, so I am intrinsically valuable – my value is based on Who made me.

I am loved beyond measure, first by my Lord Jesus Christ (because He loved us first), then by my family.

I am a child of God, not by my own works, but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ – that is my identity.

I am a soldier in the army of God, for He called me to serve in battle against the spiritual forces of wickedness in high places.

I am a Christian, because I’ve been given that title as one who identifies with Christ.

I am priceless, because of the price that was paid on the Cross to redeem me.

What I do doesn’t make me a child of God, a saint, or anything of the sort, but what Jesus did for me, on my behalf, thereby crediting those works to my account, is what makes me those things.

And all the things I do – whether it be drive a bus, be a husband, preach a sermon, mow a yard, or be a dad – I do for the sake of the one Who makes me His own, and I do it in His strength.

So, ask me what I do, and no matter what I end up telling you, I will no longer stress over the answer, for what I do is not what I am…

I do what I do because I am what I am, because of the Great I AM; my identity is found in Him.

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Filed under Christianity, Depression, God, self-worth, Uncategorized

Let’s Talk about Depression, Part 3

A Depression Case Study

When September 11, 2001, came around, everybody forgot about anything else that had been in the news. But what took place in Houston three months earlier shocked the world. Frankly, it was easier to comprehend the crazed fanaticism of some Islamic terrorists, with all of their hatred for America, than what a young mother did.

On June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates drowned her 5 children (4 boys, 1 girl) one-by one in 9 inches of water in her bathtub. She had sat them all down for breakfast, then one by one took them to the bathroom to drown them. 7-year-old Noah, the oldest, went to see where everyone had gone, then saw his little sister, only 6 months old, floating in the bathtub. His mother then chased him, finally drowning him face-down beside the floating body of the infant.

Ultimately, after initially being charged with murder and looking at the death penalty, Andrea Yates was eventually cleared of the murder charges and on July 26, 2006, was declared not guilty by reason of insanity. Why was this verdict handed down? Because it became very clear that Andrea Yates had been experiencing depression for a long time (since age 17), but by her fourth child was suffering from full-blown postpartum psychosis (worse than depression, and far more dangerous is left untreated).

The Yates did not attend church, but held Bible studies at home. Their spiritual leader was an itinerate preacher, Michael Woroniecki, who regularly sent out newsletters, personal letters, and video tapes. After doing a lot of research into the case, it became very obvious to me that Andrea and Rusty (her husband) Yates lived a very secluded, paranoid, legalistic, religious life. And I believe this un-biblical, legalistic theology that the Yates practiced had a lot to do with a mother did to her own children.

You see, as a former follower of Michael Woroniecki, David De Le Isla, said, “In her thinking she was doomed to hell, her kids were going to hell, and that the only way she could save them was by killing them.” From the things that Andrea Yates had been hearing, both from her husband and Woroniecki, depression was a sin, therefore her depression and any connected medication, were nothing more than evils which needed to be repented of. Andrea Yates, in her pitiful state of untreated psychosis; destitute of a caring group of friends and family – particularly a church family; indoctrinated with a false gospel bereft of grace; literally acted out of love for her children’s eternal souls and drowned them.

And some people wonder why I hate legalism.

And other people wonder why I worry for people who call themselves Christian, yet “forsake the assembling of themselves together” and shun the value of motivating each other to acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Medicine and the Bible

Should a Christian take medication? Should a follower of Jesus Christ, one whose faith is in Him for all things, resort to taking medication for depression? If it’s needed, then yes!

God has ordained physical means to health. Sometimes there are physical, biological issues in play, and simply depending upon God to take care of them may cross the line of presumption. When the Lord has designed us in such a way that water quenches the thirsty throat (Mark 9:31), or wine calms the stomach (1 Tim. 5:23), or a balm heals the wound (Jer. 8:22), or oil heals the sick (Ezek. 16:9), is it out of the question to then accept that a modern-day “apothecary” could create/develop a medicine to aid in the mental functions affected by biological/physical/natural deficiencies?

We must depend on God for all things, but we must give thanks to God for all things. We can thankfully accept, using discernment and wisdom, those things, like medication, which may help with depression, should the cause be physically related. However, great caution must be taken to determine beforehand whether or not the depression from which one suffers is the result of something biological or spiritual.

Taking medication, even for depression, is no more a sin than taking an aspirin, applying an antibiotic,  or using a bandage.

Depression Is NOT a SIN – Lack of Faith Is.

Depression and a Lack of Faith are not the same, even though a lack of faith might contribute to depression. In the case of Andrea Yates, depression was already at work, but it was exacerbated by faulty theology, a lack of support, and a complete lack of grace.

Romans 14:23 states that whatever “is not of faith is sin.” There are plenty of reasons why people can become depressed, but that doesn’t mean they are committing any kind of sin. As a matter of fact, I can’t help but think of Job in the Old Testament as a great example of this fact. Job had multiple reasons to feel depressed, yet he never lost faith. Even in his pain he cried out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” (Job 13:15).

But interestingly enough, the word “depression” is not in the Bible (unless it’s in a new translation). However, some biblical words that describe the same thing are: words such as downcast, brokenhearted, troubled, miserable, despairing, mourning are all linked to what we would understand in the modern context to be circumstantial depression, at least. Base on what we can read of the lives of not only Job, but several others, depression was not uncommon, even among the most faithful.

Depressed People in the Bible

Sometimes we may wonder how God could use someone who battles with depression. Sometimes we may even wonder how someone who is actually being used by the Lord can get depressed.

For further study, why not consider the following people in the Bible? Consider how the Word of God describes their emotions in each situation, and then try to determine if the feelings being expressed were sinful, acceptable,  or a reasonable reaction to the situation.

  1. David – 2 Samuel 12:15-23 (his newborn); 18:33 (Absalom)
  2. Elijah – 1 Kings 19:4
  3. Job – Physical pain, personal loss, even persecution from friends. See Job 3:11; 3:26; 10:1; and 30:15-17.
  4. Jonah – see 4:3 and 9
  5. Jeremiah – “The weeping Prophet” See 20:14-18

“The LORD [is] near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” – Psalm 34:18 NKJV

“He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3 NKJV

“He heard my cry…brought me out of the horrible pit…” – Psalm 40:1-3

Even Jesus!

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to depression, I don’t have to feel alone, even if no one else understands what I am going through. When all else fails, I can still hold on to the truth that Jesus Christ knows exactly what it feels like to be me! He knows exactly what it feels like to be YOU!

First off, Isaiah 53:3 spoke of the coming Messiah as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”  Mark 14:34-35 speaks of Jesus as “exceedingly sorrowful.” So, even though the Son of Righteousness was God in flesh, Emmanuel, He still understood what if felt like to have “the blues.”

But secondly, and even more importantly (in my opinion), Jesus understands what it feels like when our depression IS sin, or at the very least a result of sin. How is this possible?

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24 ESV

It never fails to amaze me how so many of our questions can lead us straight back to the Cross.

A Word from C. H. Spurgeon

Around 3,000 years ago King David wrote, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!” –  Psalm 42:11 NLT

A more recent (1834-1892) author and preacher, the “Prince of Preachers,” the great Charles Hadden Spurgeon, wrote something very similar, and I personally find it very encouraging. Few modern pastors or Christian authors – even secular ones – could hope to reach the pinnacle of success that C. H. Spurgeon reached; yet, even though he fought bitterly with unexplained fits of debilitating depression, he said the following:

“I am the subject of depression so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.  But I always get back again by this–I know that I trust Christ.  I have no reliance but in Him, and if He falls, I shall fall with Him.  But if He does not, I shall not.  Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and get the victory through it.  And so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it.” (12.298)

I hope this third post on depression was helpful in some way. You are not alone, you don’t have to go through it alone, and there is Hope.

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