Tag Archives: hope

Walking or Riding?

A Familiar Story

If you are familiar with the Bible, you probably remember the story of Jesus walking on the water. And if you remember that, you may also recall that the apostle Peter was the one who walked on the water with Jesus – until he began to look around.

But if you don’t remember the story, here it is as found in the NIV version of Matthew 14:25-33.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.

“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Familiar Pictures

Now that you are familiar with the story, have you ever seen paintings or illustrations depicting this passage of Scripture? Of all the ones I have ever seen, Jesus is usually portrayed as a calm, sad-looking, and often effeminate water-stroller. Peter is always some scruffy-looking, heavy-as-stone fraidy-cat.

Then what about those waves? In all the depictions of this story, how high are the waves? Usually they are no more than just a few inches high around the Lord and his bobbing disciple, Peter.

Well, I am here to challenge the common perception based on these fallacious (that means stupidly wrong) paintings.

The Waves

I am not a seafaring man like my friend David Welford, but I would bet even he would say that 6-8 inch waves would have been NO problem for some experienced fishermen. What ever frightened Peter, once he looked around, had to have been more than a ripple on the surface.

Consider how the Bible described what was happening to the boat in Matthew 14:24: “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.” Do kiddie pool waves toss a boat? No, but real waves do.

In stead of tossed, other translations use words like buffeted, beaten, and battered. The New Living Translation says that “a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” It would seem to me that the disciples were facing a life-or-death struggle, not inconvenient weather.

The Wacky Request

People often belittle Peter for his “lack of faith.” They think less of him because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. But who on this earth that is not currently on anti-psychotic medication would actually ask a UWG (Unidentified Walking Ghost), “If it is you, compel me to do something totally irrational and dangerous, OK?” What kind of crazy question was that?

I believe there is more to this story than we have been told. Why didn’t Peter just ask Jesus to come a little closer? Why not just ask Him to get in the boat and take a load off? What would have caused Peter to think of leaving the boat?

Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus was doing looked like fun.

Wave Riding

The next time you look out over a stormy sea capable of sinking a boat, try to find the smooth spots. The paintings that show the Savior walking delicately over glassy H2o in the middle of a gale are unrealistic.

My guess is that Jesus was doing more than simply walking. He was having fun! He was probably surfing without a board. It is possible that He was going up and down…up and down…up and down…smiling the whole time. That’s when Peter said, “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come out there with you…that looks like fun!”

Seriously, just stop and think about it. Here was a storm that was beating up a boat and wearing out the crew; waves that were anything but small; a boat full of panicking people; and a Man walking on water. Peter must have concluded that if there was going to be any place to be, it was with Jesus, riding the waves.

With Jesus

We can’t help the fact that storms come. But if there is any lesson to be learned from this story it is that the worst possible place to be can be the safest and most peaceful, as long as our eyes are on Jesus and we are walking with Him.

Does it make sense? No. Is it irrational? Maybe. But as long as we have faith in Jesus, we can ride atop the tallest tsunami, admiring the view.

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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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Hurting

Guest Post by: Dorissa Vanover


“I’ve lost my song,” my mother-in-law told me, as her tender heart broke into a million pieces.Today, I understand exactly what she meant.

Sometimes the pain seems relentlessly intense and hopelessly never-ending. During those times, the singer can’t sing, the writer can’t write and the artist can’t paint.

Each of us is born with a unique gift or ability, given to us by our Creator, so that we can fully express ourselves. Using the gift is a way of expressing our love and thanks to our Heavenly Father, a way to encourage others we meet along the way, and a way of joyfully immersing ourselves in our passion. We make time, knowing that we affirm ourselves and our God-given abilities as we express ourselves.

And then…unexpectedly, because we are imperfect humans living in a fallen world, we encounter heartbreak so overwhelming, it immobilizes us. We may be able to awaken each morning, get dressed and make it through our day; we may even remember to thank God for the blessings we know are still all around us. Truth is, though, we feel hopelessness inside. While we may be able to continue to function, we are not able to thrive.

Finally, knowing our spirits will break if we don’t get help, we fall to our knees beseeching our Father for the comfort only he can give. We quietly absorb the grace and mercy of being in his presence. His love surrounds us and our burden is lifted. We are renewed.

Once again, the singer sings, the writer writes, and the artist paints. It seems amazing, but the time spent away from the gift seems only to enhance the song, the words, or the painting. Yes, our Father created each of us with a wonderfully unique gift and gives us a time and place to use the gift. The greatest gift he gave each of us, though, is the freedom to have a relationship with him. He alone can replace our brokenness with joy and thanksgiving.

There may be several periods during a lifetime when the hurt seems greater than the hope. We know, though, because we belong to him, he is our hope, and there is nothing greater than him!

 

 

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Fight On!

A word of encouragement from the “preacher.”  

“Are you fighting with the adversary today? Are Satan, the world, and the flesh, all against you? Be not discouraged nor dismayed. Fight on!… Fear not, you shall overcome, for who can defeat Omnipotence? Fight on, “looking unto Jesus;” and though long and stern be the conflict, sweet will be the victory, and glorious the promised reward.” – Charles H, Spurgeon 

Fight on, brothers! Fight on!

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All Other Ground Is Sinking Sand

There are times when a hymn can do what nothing else can do. The Solid Rock, written by Edward Mote (1797-1874), has been my favorite hymn for as long as I can remember, but for today it is on the second and third verse I want to focus.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath His covenant and blood
Support me in the ‘whelming flood:
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

Darkness does come, whether we want to admit it, or not. There are times when, like Shakespeare, I feel all I’m doing is “trouble[ing] deaf heaven with my bootless cries.” At times His loving face is hidden in the darkness, leaving me to feel like no one is listening, like no one cares.

But I will rest on His unchanging grace.

And when, in the darkness, I feel my ship tossed, I must remind myself that I am not the One responsible for the journey. When the darkness is so thick that it sucks away all light, leaving me only with the sensation of drifting, I must not fear…I must not lose hope…I must stay in the ship.

My anchor holds within the veil.

Am I forgotten? Is my purpose of not importance? What of my value that I should be left alone in the increasing depths of sorrow and doubt? Has He left me to drown as the waters rise around me? Is He unfaithful to finish what He has begun? NO! Of course not! His Word is true, and he cannot lie! He is faithful, even when I am not, and His promise of my rescue is sealed in His own blood!

His oath, His covenant, and His blood support me in the overwhelming flood.

When it seems like everything is caving in around me; when it seems like every place to stand becomes loose soil on the edge of a cliff; when all the advice in the world sounds hollow…

He, then, is all my hope and stay.

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground but Jesus is sinking sand.

 

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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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Let’s Talk About Depression, Pt. 2

Your Comments

The last time I wrote on this subject, I shared with you some very personal experiences. On several levels your comments were very encouraging, and for that I thank you.

The comments you left displayed a very important fact: Many people struggle with depression, even Christians.

Now, when I say “even Christians,” that might cause some of you to cringe. However, it’s not that Christians are any better than non-Christians, it’s just that so many people – especially Christians – think Christians should never get depressed. But reality is not perception, as your comments proved.

But, as I closed the last post on this subject, I promised to give you five (5) reasons people get depressed. Well, since then I came up with several others – now there are eight (8).

I’m not going to lie – each of the following have affected me in some way, so that is why I can list them with authority. Surely there are other causes of depression, or at least things that exacerbate it, but the following eight are ones with which I have experience.

 Reasons for Depression

1. Pain

Some of you may have more experience with this than others, especially those of you with debilitating illnesses. However, sometimes even the most mundane of pains, nothing more than chronic discomfort, can wear us down. After a while of never-ending relief, our bodies and minds start to reject reality and begin looking for a way out. We get tired of the pain that never ends, making us weary of the future.

Unfortunately, many people take their own lives because of never-ending pain. Believe it or not, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults of all ages; homicide is only 17th! The overwhelming thought of having to continue to live with what can never be relieved is too much for some to bear, leaving all other options and reasons to live off the table. This, however, is when meaning and purpose must be stronger than the pain.

Hope is the medicine for life.

But physical pain isn’t the only kind of pain. Memories can hurt, too. And not only memories, but all kinds of emotional pain; pain of all kinds contributes to depression.

2. Poverty

Now, for the record, I did not grow up rich. As a matter of fact, there was a time in my life when we lived in a house where you could see daylight through cracks in the walls! We also had no running water, except what we could get from a water hose attached to our neighbor’s well, so bathing was a pain, except when it rained; that’s when my dad and I would take the Dial soap and stand under the gutter.

The funny thing about poverty in my childhood is that I didn’t know I was poor, so it was no big deal. However, later in life I began to make a lot of money and began to grow accustomed to the finer things in life – including hot water and indoor showers. It was when God chose to remove that income and lifestyle that I revisited life with very little income, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Poverty – although nothing like what I saw in Zimbabwe – can lead Americans down the self-pitying road to depression. We bemoan what we do not have and mourn what we have no longer.

3. Potential

When I think of the word potential, I think of several things. I think of the things in life that could be, but have yet to be realized. I also think of all the kinds of things that could have been, but because of bad decisions or mistakes were lost to the “what if’s” of time.

Many people can grow depressed when they sit and ponder what might have been, or what is just out of reach. I have done that when I have looked back and wondered what I could have done if I had stayed in college when I was young, or continued pursuing a degree in law. I think of the business and employment opportunities I squandered that could have left my family and me in a much better position today.

But, potential is not what is, and where we are right now was never, at any time, a shock to our Creator and Sovereign God.

4. Pressure

Surely you know what I mean by pressure, correct? If I listed fifteen blanks you could probably fill in each one with a word tied to some sort of pressure-producing issue in your life. There are the pressures to succeed, to meet deadlines, to impress, to keep people happy, to finish the project, to not mess up, to not give in, and to be everything everyone else wants you to be.

Are you depressed, yet?

5. Pornography

Admit it, if you are on a computer reading this, you have no doubt come across something pornographic on the internet. It may have been by accident at first, but many of you have done more than stumble – you’ve dived in head-first to the cesspool.

If I were to say that I am immune to pornography simply because I am a Christian minister, I would be deceiving you. As a matter of fact, some surveys have shown that nearly half of all pastors have intentionally viewed internet porn more than a few times in the last year. Add to that fact the ease with which a person of any age can surf the web on a smart phone without leaving an obvious trace, who has not viewed porn in some form or fashion in the last year?

I am nearly 50 years old (will be in September), and I can tell you that porn is a big temptation. My first exposure to it was early on in life, before I was 10, when my cousins showed me my uncle’s hidden boxes of Playboys and Penthouse magazines. The indelible images left in my mind became dry tinder waiting to be reignited when VHS tapes became available, but thankfully I never purchased any. But when the internet became available, all it took was a curious click and I was pierced through with a flaming pitchfork.

Since the early days of my marriage, I have been very open and honest with my wife. Valerie knows my weaknesses, and so that helps me to avoid temptations. However, because of the world we now live in, when even burger commercials on television are nearly pornographic, the sparks that reignite the hellish images in my brain are floating in the air….and sometimes I fail.

What happens when we – especially Christians – view pornography? We experience the guilt that sin produces, and that can lead to serious, deadly depression. Even though Jesus Christ paid for our sins on the cross of Calvary, the Accuser never wastes an opportunity to remind us of how lowly and worthless we are. He does his best to turn us away from repentance and straight down the path of the prodigal.

6. Past

Maybe you already sensed this in some of the things above, but one of the biggest contributors to depression is the past. I won’t dwell too much on this one, for you probably know all to well what it is like to be haunted by things you’ve done or said days, weeks, years, or even decades ago. It’s when these moments come back to remembrance that we can stoop into depressive, pensive moods.

Like I mentioned before, the Devil  – the Accuser – loves to keep bringing up our past, even though God has place the Christian’s past in the Sea of Forgetfulness, as far as the east is from the west. But we are not God, are we? Unfortunately, because we are human, we tend to remember things we can’t correct or make right, like the time I said terrible, hurtful words to my father and made him cry.

Why not just take a moment at this point and think about how much you righteously hate Satan? He’s truly worth of hell, isn’t he? Not only did he tempt you and those you love, but he continues to remind you of things not even God will remember!

7. People

If you care anything about other people, people will depress you if you’re not careful, especially those who don’t even care what they are doing with their bodies and their souls. Wayward children, drunken neighbors, abused children, the starving homeless, crooked politicians, unrepentant atheists, and all kinds of others can lead even the most faithful into dark places of mourning.

Try sharing the gospel on a college campus and let me know if it’s easy to stay up and cheerful by day’s end. It’s difficult.

8. Prayerlessness

I’m sure the list could be longer, but I’ve just about run out of “P” words. So, let me end my list with one last cause of depression – a lack of prayer.

Friends, I can’t express to you how important it is to pray. However, make sure you understand the difference between “prayer” and talking with God. You see, there are those who believe that “prayer changes things,” so they go around spouting its benefits to any and all who are burdened, broken, sick, or downtrodden. But let me clue you in to a huge truth…

Prayer without Someone who can answer is nothing more than witchcraft. Yes, I said that, and you can take it to the bank. Prayers mean nothing without God. On the other hand, a simple conversation between the Father and His child “availeth much.”

But for those who never spend time with the Lord, or very little time, facing the daunting struggles and questions of life can simply become overwhelming. I firmly believe that had King David not prayed “evening, morning, and at noon” (Psalm 55:17), there would have been far more cries of “Why are you cast down, Oh my soul?” and far less proclamations like “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

That’s Not All, Folks!

Believe it or not, this is not the last post I’ll be writing on this difficult subject. My next one will bring some more observations to the table from which you can pick and use as needed. I just hope and pray what I am writing will continue to help and encourage.

But before I close, note that I did not give you many suggestions in the above post. In other words, pretty much all I did was list a bunch of things that cause, contribute to, or exacerbate depression, without offering ways to deal with them. So, let me share with you four (4) very important steps I’ve learned to take in my struggle with depression.

  1. Admit it, confess it, and talk about it.
  2. Don’t try to handle it on your own.
  3. Worship God, even when you don’t feel like it.
  4. Know that Jesus understands – that was what the cross was for!

Any comments? Any suggestions? Sharing is caring! 

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