Tag Archives: depression

The Benefit of Darkness

Some people will insist that a Christian should never go through a dark time in his life. The idea is that “joy unspeakable” should empower a perpetual smile even in the middle of imminent doom.

What’s more, it’s the people in the Church who most often criticize the discouraged and depressed, treating them like whatever is bothering them could not be bad enough to challenge their faith, that is, if their faith was genuine.

It doesn’t help, either, when the rest of the world’s problems are weighed in the balance with ours. It’s like, “There are people being burned alive for their faith and you’re having a spiritual identity crisis?” It’s no different than saying, “If you think YOUR pain is bad, you should feel MINE.”

There’s songs and sermons galore about persevering through the storms of life and coming out stronger on the other side. There’s even much talk about joy in the midst of sorrow, about peace in the midst of spiritual attack. But what I don’t think I’ve ever heard is a recognition of the value or benefits of the “dark” times we may experience.

When I say I’m in “a dark place,” what does that mean? For different people it can mean different things, of course, but what do you typically think about? What do you associate with dark places?

I’ll tell you what I’ve seen in the dark places: anger, regret, sorrow, resentment, bitterness, resignation, self-doubt, self-hate, weariness, loneliness, helplessness, worthlessness, and a “deaf heaven” and “bootless cries” (to borrow from Shakespeare). It’s probably not necessary to tell you of the thoughts that accompany such darkness.

So how could there be any benefit to such darkness, such despair? How could there be any value to such moments? Well, I’ve wondered that, myself. Yet is our God not sovereign? If truly redeemed, am I ever out of His hand?

There exist rare and refined elements which offer solutions to problems yet to be discovered. In other words, there are things that, until they were discovered, we didn’t even know we had a need for them. Sometimes these things are discovered in the remains of previous failures.

I have come to believe that the strongest faith is produced in the dark, when all appears lost, when all efforts have failed, and when there’s nothing solid left on which to stand. Faith is then the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

The strongest faith can only be found, not in just weakness, but when there’s no strength at all.

When I’ve messed up so much and so many times that I’ve not even a single seed to plant in a dry field with no rain in sight, faith is the evidence of the crop to come.

The benefit of darkness is the failure of myself and the hope of Him who will not let me go.

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Filed under Depression, Faith, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

The Downward Spiral of Admitting Depression

Dear readers, now that the end of the year is upon us, I know that many people in the world aren’t feeling excited about tomorrow. I get it. Even as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I still feel an underlying sense of foreboding.

But what about all that stuff like “God is in control” and “God’s got a plan”? If that’s true, why feel down, discouraged, or depressed? And why, of all things, feel a sense of dread?

Well, all I can say is that if you feel both ways at the same time, you and King David (the Psalmist), a few prophets, and I have something in common.

Knowing that the Lord’s hand is not weak and His arm not short does not change the fact that you and I are living in mortal bodies affected by the constant onslaught of circumstances which drain us, both physically and mentally.

The sad truth is that even though you and I may believe there is hope, for our Hope is Jesus, we may still find ourselves battling the feeling of hopelessness.

Now, who am I to suggest how another comes to be in this situation? It’s hard enough to explain my own feelings, emotions, and circumstances, much less try to piece together the puzzle pieces of someone else’s life. However, I do want to attempt to validate what some of you might be feeling if you are at the point of needing help.

The problem with admitting you are depressed, especially to the point of danger, is that by doing so one risks making things even worse. Admitting depression often takes away the very things for which we fight to hold onto, the things that give meaning to our existence. Therefore, in order to maintain a sense of purpose and keep the light at the end of the tunnel lit, we hide the pain, hope to God things get better, and force our faith to the surface for others to see, essentially faking it, sort of, until we make it.

Why is this? I’m not a licensed therapist or clinical psychologist, but my best guess is because what we believe, albeit true, is always in a fight with perception, pride, physiology (and I didn’t plan on alliterating those points, but it would make a good sermon outline, wouldn’t it?).

Therefore, what do we do? We leak as little as possible without spilling our guts, just enough to put a few more gallons in the tank so as to make it through the desert.

Can you relate? If so, let’s encourage one another. God does still reign, His mercies endure forever, and because of His steadfast love and faithfulness we are not condemned.

Faking it till we make it isn’t really the best option.

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Filed under Depression

Sometimes All You Can Do is Ride the Pieces

Photo by Nadine Biezmienova (free Pexels)

Have you ever thought you were doing well, only to find out you weren’t?

Here’s another question… Have you ever tried to improve yourself, only to find that the improvements you thought you were making were actually counterproductive to your end goals?

Have you ever had the best intentions and done everything right to the best of your ability, only to find yourself making one mistake that dominoes into a pile on the floor?

Believe me, I’ve not just been there, I’m here . . . and I’ve got the t-shirt ordered.

So what now? Question myself even more? Wallow in self-pity or succumb to the darkening clouds of doubt and depression?

What do you do (if, of course, you’ve ever experienced something like this)? How do you deal with it?

How do I deal with it? That’s a great question!

There are times when there’s nothing you can do to fix a problem. We humans – especially men – are all about trying to fix problems. Nevertheless, sometimes the problem is too big to fix, at least by us.

These are the times that I mentioned in a sermon just this past week. These are the times I spoke of (generically speaking) when I outlined the times when Satan will take advantage.

These are the precise times of brokenness, weakness, sadness, futility, and resignation that our Enemy, per his usual mode of operation (the “wiles” of the Devil), attempts to make things even worse by turning our eyes away from Christ and onto the waves about to sink our frail boat.

There are times when it is difficult to say, “Hold on through the night.” No, about the only thing one can do at these times is commit to holding on just beyond the moment we think we can’t hold on any longer. These are the times when we HAVE to depend on God’s strength, His mercy, and His grace.

Friend, you may think all is lost. The truth is that it may be. Yes, that’s what I said. Sometimes all WILL be lost. But that doesn’t mean God is done and everything is over.

There was a time in the life of the Apostle Paul when, as a prisoner, he was aboard a ship that was bound for destruction. Even though everything was done to lighten the ship and keep it afloat through days and days of an unrelenting storm, God told Paul to tell those on the ship that yes, it would eventually sink and be a total loss.

Except – and this is a biggie – no lives would be lost. The only catch was that, at the news the ship was going to crash, no one was to abandon ship. Those that abandoned ship would die. Only those who stayed on the ship till it broke up would survive.

In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

Acts 27:30-32 NIV

Crazy, isn’t it?

But that’s what happened. They all stayed on the ship until it ran aground and broke into pieces. The pieces are what they were able to use to float to safety.

But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

Acts 27:41-44 NIV

I get it! I understand exactly what you are going through! Satan will try to get us to jump ship, throw in the towel, give up the mission, abandon the post, or simply walk away into the dark never to be seen again. I mean, what’s the use, right? If the ship is sinking anyway, why ride it into the rocks?

Listen, as one wreck-in-the-making to another, it may be scary, and it won’t be easy, but keep sailing – stay in the ship for a little longer. . . just a little longer than the moment when you think you can’t go on . . .

Because God may have a plan for the pieces of wreck that an intact ship couldn’t accomplish.

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Filed under Depression, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials

When my heart is overwhelmed

“from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I‭‭” Psalm 61:2 Over the past few days, …

When my heart is overwhelmed

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Filed under Guest Posts, Love of God, Struggles and Trials

It May Be a Monday, but…

It may be another Monday, but I’d like for you to stop and consider a few things before you depress even more people with your complaining.

God made this day. Yes, like you already knew, “This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” This day, this Monday, is a gift from God made especially for you!

This day is a gift! Like I said in the sentence above, this day, this Monday, is a gift from God for you. You don’t deserve it. You didn’t earn it. It’s only because of the grace and mercy of God, not to mention because He loves you so much, that He gave you another Monday. It must be pretty special – and so are YOU – to get a gift from the King of the Universe!

You’ll never get another day quite like this one. That’s right, even though this is a Monday, there will never be another Monday, even another day, like this one. It’s totally unique and irreplaceable! Treat it as such.

Last, but not least, you will be held accountable for what you did with this day. God has given it to you for a reason; He knows what plans He has for you, but also what plans He wants you to accomplish. Will you waste today? Or, will you use this wonderful and priceless Monday to showcase the goodness of its Creator?

It may be Monday, but it’s the Monday God gave you. Rejoice and be glad in it!

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When Your Heroes Die

This morning I posted a heartfelt and serious impromptu video directed at my youngest daughter.

However, it’s for everybody.

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Filed under Apologetics, current events, Depression, Life/Death

Jesus Is More than a Crutch!

Last night I was sifting through boxes of stuff in my office and I came across several notebooks in which I’d maintained somewhat of a diary.

I’ll be honest with you, it’s been a pretty difficult time around here, lately. Not only has my faith been tested on an hourly basis, but my own brokenness has been made clear over and over again. When I took a few minutes to flip through the pages of those old notebooks, all from over a decade ago, the truth that my broken condition is chronic became obvious.

But there was one page I found where I had written some encouraging words. However, they weren’t words of affirmation meant to build up my ego or make me feel better about myself; they were attestations to the fact that Jesus is more, so much more, than a crutch to me.

Below is a copy of the text…

You say you don’t need Jesus because you don’t need a crutch. If you don’t think you need him, then maybe you’re crippled to high for crutches.

Jesus is more than a crutch!

Throw away Jesus and take the Devil, but I choose Jesus.

Just think about it:

The Devil tries to burden me down
    -Jesus says, “Cast your cares on me.”

“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

The Devil wants me to sin.
    -Jesus bore my sin.

Satan will try to weaken me.
     -Jesus is my strength.

When Satan fires his arrows at me,
    -Jesus is my Shield.

In the midst of the storm
    -Jesus hides me in his hand.

Satan would see me defeated.
    -Jesus fights my battles.

Satan would have me fall into despair.
    -Jesus lifts me from the pit.

Satan would harm me.
    -Jesus will heal me.

When darkness is all around and Satan would blind me,
    -Jesus is my Light.

When Satan says, “There is no way,”
    -Jesus says, “I AM THE WAY”

When Satan says I’m guilty,
    -Jesus paid my debt.

When the Devil would lead me astray,
    -Jesus is my Shepherd.

When the Devil would watch me fall,
    -Jesus carries me.

“Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on, help me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light:
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.” – Thomas A. Dorsey

He leads; He goes before; He walks beside; He holds me; He carries me; He helps me to stand; He gives me a race to run: He’s so much more than a “crutch” to me.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, Jesus, worship, writing

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Stay On the Float, Don’t Give Up

I’m going to be totally honest with you, OK? There was a post I published for just a few minutes this morning, but then I took it down and added it to the “draft” bin. Even as I was writing it, it seemed forced. So, no matter how I tried to edit it, it never seemed “right.”

So, what did I do? I decided I’d try to do a video blog ( a Vlog) post. I mean, hey, I’m a preacher, so why not just TELL my story? Yet, what happened? After multiple recordings, multiple edits, and multiple times trying to upload, only to see “Upload Failed,” I almost gave up.

Nothing was working!

YET, I still felt I needed to post something, almost like it was imperative that I do so. Why the pressure? Why the stress?

So, I decided to try one more thing – record straight to YouTube. No editing, not fancy camera work, no script…just raw, unedited video of me sharing what’s on my heart.

As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for the video to upload to YouTube (it’s taking awhile). If it uploads with no problem, you will see it below.

It’s taking a looooooonnnnng time.

Ah, finally 🙂

God bless!
Anthony

 

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Filed under blogging, Christianity, current events, Depression, Life/Death, ministry

Determined to Reblog a Blessing

This morning, before I got out of bed, I read a post from Jill McIlreavy at Mustard Seed Blog.

The first thing I thought after reading her inspirational post was, “That’ll preach!” That, of course, is a common saying from around these parts (the South), but some of you might have never heard it. Jill hadn’t.

What it means is that a good preacher could take that there post and walk up to a pulpit and let the devil have it! At least that’s one way to describe it 😉

Regardless, I tried to “reblog” this post, but dagnabbit!, WordPress just won’t have it! So, I’m just going to bypass the normal “reblog” route and post a link below.

Believe me, it’s worth the effort. If you are now or have ever gone through a dark time in life, this piece from Jill McIlreavy will genuinely encourage you.

God bless,
Anthony

Just click on the picture or the link in the text.

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Filed under blogging, Struggles and Trials

Powerful Sales Video with Spiritual Application

Literally, no more than 3 minutes ago, I watched the video I’m sharing with you this morning.

Two days ago I got a phone call from a recruiter with the company behind the video and she promised to send me a couple of emails. In one of the emails was a link to this video.

Please don’t think I’m trying to sell you or recruit you into anything. Just watch the video below and see if you get the same reaction I did.

What a POWERFUL reminder that behind every smile is a story. For me, it is a powerful reminder that behind every face sitting in a pew (or on a cushy chair) in church, there is a life, a story.

Twenty years ago I was suicidal, taking lots of anti-depressants, and going to counseling multiple times a week. I came close to being admitted to a facility for my own safety. At the same time, I was going to church every time the doors were open, listening to the music and the preaching, doing my best to lie with my expressions.

How many other people do the same thing? How many people put up a front, build walls, and hide behind a false smile?

This video broke my heart for people: the lost, the broken, the hurting, the lonely, the scared, the abused, and the depressed.

It’s a reminder that every time I preach, every time I visit or knock on a door, every time I prayer-walk a street, there are little “stories” floating over people’s heads that only God can read.

They need Jesus to make their stories His-story.

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Filed under Depression, General Observations, ministry