Jesus

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Depression Amongst Friends

Published December 16, 2018 by Dawn

“He just needs to die.”

I swallowed hard and said, “What?” I really wasn’t sure I heard her correctly.

“He just needs to die. He’s heartbroken and he just needs to die.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been more appalled at a conversation in my life. I felt this incessant pleading of my heart to turn around and walk away from this conversation, but propriety demanded I stay, so I did. Leaning against a rail for support, I clung to it with my teeth tightly clamped and listened as this friend, this Christian woman, told me about her elderly father’s battle with depression. I might have understood if she had disclosed an unmanageable and constant pain in his body. I could understand that kind of suffering driving friends and family to this conclusion. How do you watch a loved one suffer physical torment without, at some point, determining that death would be a reprieve?

She wasn’t talking about physical pain. She said, “He is in great physical shape. He’s doing well in so many ways, actually. He’s just so broken-hearted.” Then she said it again. The one thing I couldn’t bear hearing her repeat. “He just needs to die.”

How did we get here, friends? How did we get here, church? Where we can look at the suffering of others and with callousness decide that death is just the inevitable conclusion to it all? Have we forgotten God? Have we forgotten the testimony of the scriptures, of men and women who also wrestled with depression in deep, dark places and been rescued?

I think of Paul, an elderly man in chains, writing to the church in Corinthians, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself” (2 Cor. 2:8). Even in the company of his companions, Paul experienced such severe depression of spirit that he felt, and rationalized, death as the answer. “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2:9). Paul and his companions had a tremendous prayer life, evident in all the letters he wrote, and they recognized that God was the one they should turn to in this time.

I don’t understand why we Christians filter our lives through the world’s sieve, looking for answers. We rationalize as the world does, and we forget just how powerful our God is in our suffering, and the suffering of our loved ones. We forget that scriptures says that we are destined for such suffering, but also encourages us to press through them and promises that we will be victorious. Paul continues telling his story, “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2:10-11).

I have felt the sting of abandonment in sorrowful times. I know it’s because it’s hard for others to bear the burden of my pain. I have had friends turn their backs on me because the depression outlasted their ability to help me keep my arms up. Like Moses in Exodus 17:8-15, who had been called to an intense battle. The Lord allowed Israel to prevail and conquer the enemy as long as Moses sat on the hill with the rod raised above his head. But when his arms began to give out and he lowered the rod, the enemy quickly gained the upper hand. What did his friends do? They stood beside him and held up his arms. No doubt, their arms also hurt as the day wore on, but they did not abandon him in his pain. They stood next to him.

I’m afraid we’re there, church, at the place Jesus described in Matthew 24:12, “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” The increase of wickedness is not just the hatred of God in the world, or the rampant murder and strife. It’s also the love of self to the degree that we abandon each other in our own selfish pursuits. Life would be easier if we were only looking out for number one, but it certainly isn’t the will of God. Paul’s daily death led him to abandon all comfort to be the hands and feet of Christ in this life. Jesus’s example led him up Calvary for people who hated him. Can we not tarry with our depressed loved ones?!

If you reread Paul’s exhortation in 2 Corinthians (just scroll back up and reread it), he said that their hope was set upon God, as his friends prayed for them in their struggles. He intimates that their deliverance hinged on – was granted in response to – the prayers of his friends. This isn’t the only place Paul talks about being downcast. Over and over in scripture, he testifies to being renewed and reinvigorated at the coming of his friends, such as Titus and Timothy.

I write this as a gently rebuke because I think this is something many professing Christians are guilty of. There are many hurting people who are just trying to keep their head above water. Who spend so much of their day just trying not to be overcome by life’s billows. Who feel abandoned by those they trusted to have their back. It’s hard to reach out to people when you’re hurting. But instead of bearing the responsibility of reaching out when our friend’s ghost on us, we take it personal and get offended. That’s Satan, folks, putting lies in your head to divide and conquer Christians, one by one. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Perhaps you are the one who often battles depression alone. Remember, when we are weak, God is strong. “The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven” (Deut. 28:7). Paul shares in 2 Timothy 4:17 that when he was abandoned by everyone, the Lord stood with him and gave him strength. Similarly, King David once felt everyone around him rising up against him and instead of giving in to despair, the Bible says he encouraged himself in the Lord. Don’t be defeated in your depression. Jesus is our Saviour, our Counselor, and our great Friend. We are never alone. He is our hope.

 

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Man Plans While God Laughs

Published November 25, 2018 by Dawn

The Christmas tree went up last night. It’s beautiful chaos, and putting it up was beautiful chaos too. I don’t usually describe chaos like that. I don’t really like chaos … It gives me anxiety.

I know we all consider ourselves to be creatures of habit. I don’t know if anyone is as married to their habits as I am. After all, humanity glorifies marriage and I’m still single, so I think it’s probable that my habits are a surrogate. Let me explain:

My life is full of routine. There’s a system to my morning: wake up, potty break, shower (there’s a system for the shower too), lotion, dress, wake up the kids, hair, brush teeth, make-up, hot tea, walk out the door. Dishes have a system: Plates first, then silverware and cups, glass bowls, plastic bowls, pots and pan, and then anything else that sits on the counter (which is usually nothing). My life is a well-oiled machine until you throw people into the system and then I have to micromanage their existence so that it doesn’t mess up my systems … living with me sounds amazing, right? My kids think so too …

We always put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, but this year, we had to wait until the weekend because my daughter is now a working woman. She missed Thanksgiving (I’m now an advocate for Black Friday starting on Friday), and had to work during the nuttiness of Black Friday, so we had to put our traditions off until the weekend. I made a full Thanksgiving dinner, invited the fam and recreated Thanksgiving for her yesterday. Not to put off the tree any longer, we meshed Thanksgiving with the beginning of the Christmas season in our house and dubbed Saturday “Thanksmas.” After gorging ourselves and cleaning up, we prepared to put up the tree.

I had a plan for last night, wouldn’t you know … we always go to the store and each pick out a new ornament for the tree. Then we come home, turn on a Pandora Christmas station, get out the stuff, do the tree, drink hot chocolate, and watch a funny Christmas movie (yes, it’s almost always one of three: Home Alone, A Christmas Story, or Christmas in Wonderland). Last night, we did things a little different… By “we,” I mean mostly me. That was not part of the plan.

My kids are teenagers, so music, facetime and hanging out trumps tradition. While I brought the many boxes of Christmas up from the basement, they hung out in my son’s room and ate chips and dip. While I painstakingly added volume to each individual branch and put it in its place, they played Country and Rap to drown out Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. While I untangled the lights, fussed with the fuses and went to the store for replacements, they played basketball under the streetlights. Every once in a while a kid would pop in to see how things were going or lend a hand, but I had to talk myself out of a few pity parties as I lamented the ways things have changed this year. So many changes and none of them were a part of the plan.

When they did finally join me, it was only to hijack my phone charger and fill the living room with 90’s pop music. I must admit, I raised some eyebrows as I busted out my 90’s dance moves and sang all the lyrics at the top of my lungs. My son was unimpressed but my daughter decided to learn Vanilla Ice verbatim. They did help me put the decorations on after the lights were strung, but things are a little different than usual. Our angelic tree topper has a large green alien sitting on her shoulder … so different than I envisioned. But so like my son, who was pleased I left it.

I shared all of this because “Man plans while God laughs.” There is so much truth to this. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Similarly, chapter 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the purposes of the Lord prevail.” For a planner like myself, this is a little cringy. Situations that require me to just sit back and watch God do His thing are so hard. I know God is awesome and has great plans for us. I’ve read Jeremiah 29:11, and a slew of other verses that inspire me to trust God. And when I’m lost in adoration and worship, I can trust God with such fidelity. But in the drudgery, as Oswald Chambers liked to call it, the everydayness when life happens and there’s not an acute sense of God’s nearness, I go back to my meticulous planning and create order in the chaos as much as I can.

Last night taught me that strictly following my own plans robs me of the bliss in life. There’s not a ton of it, after all. If I had demanded they come into the living room and help, I would have had very sullen teenagers resisting every proposal or directive I made. If I had insisted on Christmas music, I would have missed belting Britney Spears, Spice Girls and the Soundtrack to Grease with my sixteen-year-old. Moments with my kids are slipping away faster and faster. Do I really want to miss out just because the alien clearly does not belong atop the angel atop the tree? I might have!

In light of this sobering reality, I reflected on life in the larger sense and I must admit that there may have been times I missed out on things that would have deepened my connections with others or added to my joy because I was so stuck on the preplanned things in my mind. I don’t think that’s how God operates. He’s the creator of  spontaneity, after all. His plans seem to thrive in an atmosphere of bewilderment and joy. He hardly ever follows logic, and there is no rhyme or reason to the way God works. Clearly, we cannot stick to our plans so religiously and expect to walk in the perfect will of God. All of our preconceived notions make God laugh because we’re dreadfully simple and He’s extravagant and wild. I want that. I want whatever God is doing. That crazy, zany, impractical thing I can’t imagine because I like symmetry and He loves coloring outside the lines. Father, teach me to love what you are doing and the spontaneity of it. Teach me to sit back and enjoy what you are doing instead of trying to make everything make sense and have a semblance of order. Help me to hear your will and follow your directions into whatever it is you have planned for my life. I don’t want to control and contain what is clearly bigger than me and better than I can create in my own imagination. Have your way. Let’s have fun in this together.

“ … as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—” (1 Cor. 2:9).

 

Unfathomable

Published October 5, 2018 by Dawn

I read through the Gospels last month and I had a mind-blowing realization that I immediately knew I wanted to blog about, but then I felt really stupid because I thought to myself, “Everyone already knows this! Why are you making such a big deal about it!” I talked myself out of blogging and wasn’t able to write another thing for two weeks. Every time I thought about blogging, this topic came back to mind because in my heart of hearts, I think it’s the most profound thing I’ve received in a long time. I have decided to write the blog because I feel like I need to be faithful to the Holy Spirit, who struck me with awe over Jesus once again.

Here’s the thing: I’ve heard about and preached on the death of Christ so many times. It’s the main ingredient to any message because if your teaching doesn’t revolve around or lead back to the death and resurrection of Christ, it’s not worth much. I’ve even considered his life: did you know that death on the cross was the final death of Christ, but certainly not his first? When Paul said, “I die daily,” he was telling his audiences how to be Christ-like. Jesus died daily too. For 33 years. Well, here’s what hit me the other day: Jesus fulfilled all of the law. We’ve all heard that, right? But what does it mean?

The law had two sides; the command and the way back to God if it was broken. The Law Moses gave the Israelites was extensive. It wasn’t a list of ten. It was a couple hundred commandments and how to avoid the wrath of God if one was broken. Each involved a sacrifice for repentance. Romans 6:23 sums up what the Old Testament taught over and over again, that “the wages of sin is death.”

Jesus lived the life we could never live. The life of perfection in the sight of God. The life that pleased God, to the detriment of flesh. Jesus said no to himself in every way so that the Father would be glorified. He did what no man could do while living in the flesh. Flesh is evil. Jesus put his flesh into submission. He fulfilled the requirements of God while living. He didn’t displease God in any way. He never required a sacrifice for repentance. He satisfied the perfect will of God for mankind. That in itself is amazing!

Then, he satisfied the other side of the law. The side that required a sacrifice to be made right with God again. “He made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). The only righteous one who ever lived paid the price for sin he never committed because he loved us and knew the price was too heavy for anyone to bear. I’m so overwhelmed by this truth. You’re probably like, “Duh!” But it hits me like it’s the first time every time I hear it! I can’t believe that Christ was willing to endure such pain for me. I can’t believe He would endure the wrath of God, the unbearable emptiness of God looking away from Him, just so God would never look away from me. When God sees us, He sees the righteousness of Christ. I don’t deserve that! I deserve His wrath. I deserve eternal death and damnation. What love is this?!

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me so much. It’s unfathomable.

Doctor Recommendation

Published October 4, 2018 by Dawn

I have now gone to the chiropractor two Mondays in a row. A vertebra in my lower back had slipped and there was a visible tilt in my trunk as well as a ton of pain. I could hardly walk for an entire weekend and called the chiropractor seven minutes after he opened the following Monday. The effects of his first adjustment were immediate and amazing. But as the week wore on, I could still feel a problem. My shoulders felt really weird, there was a twinge of pain that kept coming and going between my shoulder blades, and I had pain radiating up my neck. I walked into his office for a second time the next Monday and mercifully, he squeezed me in. After my second adjustment, I was finally pain free.

My mom and I were at the gym the next day and I said to her, “You have no idea how good it is to not be in pain. I feel like I’ve been in pain forever.” You might say, “Sounds like you were really only in pain for two weeks.” That’s what it sounds like, but I didn’t mention the constant pain from tight hamstrings or the fact that this vertebra had been working its way out of place for a while. It has literally felt like an eternity. To not feel any part of my back or legs is not normal for me. I am usually very aware of my body because it’s almost always screaming at me.

The thought occurred to me that there are people all over the world who share this experience. People who feel like they’ve been hurting for an eternity and have no idea if there’s a cure or if it’s just something they have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Some of these people hurt physically, and some of them hurt emotionally. If I knew a specialist who could help them find relief, I’d tell them about it immediately. I can’t stand the thought of people in pain! I am too intimately acquainted with constant pain to leave people to suffer.

So why am I not talking about Jesus like he’s the Great Physician? I know He can heal and restore. He’s mended my broken heart, healed my deep wounds, nursed me back to life and given me newness. He saved me from devastation and gave me a testimony. He literally pulled me away from my own obsession with suicide and given me reasons to live. He’s replaced all the brokenness in my life. People should know about this! If a person with back issues asked my recommendations, I’d give them the number of my chiropractor because I have experienced his expertise and think he’s amazing. Likewise, I took a lot of emotional turmoil to the feet of Jesus and found that he is most amazing! I recommend Him to anyone based on my personal experience!

Are you enough, or what?

Published September 13, 2018 by Dawn

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13) 

I couldn’t move past this verse today. It is sweet like honey and intensely satisfying to the hungry heart. Jesus was eating with “many tax collectors and sinners,” and a group of Pharisees came to interrogate him about it.

Knowing that Jesus is God in flesh, covered in the Holy Spirit at all times, I’m sure the Pharisees always felt His righteousness when they were around him. They felt the difference between their spirits and His. They were, no doubt, acutely aware of their righteousness being as filthy rags, but instead of humbling them, it hardened them. They found Jesus sitting around a bunch of sinful people and their first thoughts were to condemn him, because finally, they had a reason to point the finger and say “aha!”

“Do you know these people?”

I imagine their sneers.

“Do you know what they’ve done and the way they do others?”

“Are you gonna hang out with this trash?”

I love how Jesus talks about the men and women around him. He doesn’t speak of them as if they are lesser or unworthy. He calls them “sick.” He acknowledged their brokenness. Their desperate need of healing and cleansing. A doctor would take them in and clean their wounds, bind up their brokenness and tenderly nurse them back to health. Then, insist they come back for treatment as often as they need it.

Before this meal, he had walked past Matthew’s tax booth, looked over at him and said, “Come, follow me.” No one in their right mind would have talked to Matthew! He was a liar and cheat. He was, with permission from the oppressive Roman regime, robbing his flesh and blood for the sake of personal gain. But to Jesus, he was someone more than that. He was the man who would later write the first Gospel. He was a man who would, later that same night, invite a bunch of sinners into his house to hang out with God in the flesh. He was a gateway to the saving power of Christ in the lives of so many people who most likely weren’t welcome in the church, the market or anywhere else in town. Jesus called him out of his sin (literally, in the act!) and then used him immediately to call more to himself.

The Pharisees represent the church. It’s evident in reading through the gospels that they were self-righteous and indignant that Christ would rather hang out with people who were fleshly and in need than those who sacrificed every worldly comfort to be counted worthy in God’s eyes. Sacrifice, though. Let me pause there: I don’t think God is displeased with such offerings. I just think that when our sacrifice makes His mercy in the lives of others a point of contention between us and Him, we must understand that God would smile more upon our mercy to our fellow man than on our staunch sacrifice that often makes us feel self-made in His eyes.

Finally, I think it’s important to consider what the last part of this selection says: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” If we are honest with ourselves, we can humbly admit that He came to call us. We are sinners. In those moments when I feel righteous, I thank God that “… those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37). Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous to himself because they could never hear him anyway, over the sound of patting themselves on the back. C.H. Spurgeon once said, “While others are congratulating themselves, I have to sit humbly at the foot of the cross and marvel that I’m saved at all.” This is the attitude of those Christ has come to call, and those He will undoubtedly reach. Such people are aware of themselves. They know they are not enough on their own. But they also know that God makes them enough through the sacrificial blood of Jesus.

Thank you Lord, for saving such a wretch as I.

Maybe She’s Born with it … Or Maybe it’s Jesus

Published September 6, 2018 by Dawn

We all know Wal-Mart can become kind of a monopoly in terms of where we shop, if we aren’t careful. It’s so easy to take that one-stop shop instead of spending half a day shopping around for things. I mean, unless you are a shopper. I am not. I hate it. I don’t like crowds, or materialistic vibes, or the depths of vanity that try to manipulate me into buying things I don’t need. I bristle at the idea of spending money on frivolous and unnecessary purchases. I also have a pretty deep rut I’m stuck in regarding most things that I like. Just last month, I spent half an hour trying to choose a new mascara because Wal-Mart did what Wal-Mart always does: the moment I finally find something I like, Wal-Mart discontinues stocking it.

R.I.P. Covergirl Exact Eyelights Mascara. I loved you more than you’ll ever know.

There I stood, eyes wide in shock and befuddlement. There are several brands, and then a gazillion options within each brand! Although I liked the Exact Eyelights Mascara, I didn’t like another tube Covergirl had to offer, so the field was wide open as to what brand I was even going to choose. I paced back and forth through two separate aisles F-O-R-E-V-E-R, reading every last package trying to figure out whether I wanted Blackest Black or Midnight. Then I had to ask myself, “Do I trust this waterproof brand to come off with soap, or will I have to scrub my eyelashes with a metal scouring pad to chip it off?” Then I found something called “primer” and I wondered how necessary that was to a good experience with mascara, in general.

Right before I succumbed to feelings of hopeless frustration, a friendly Wal-Mart employee walked up to stock right next to me and I turned toward her in desperation. She took in the sight of a haggard female reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in The Shining and gave me a hesitant, customer service smile. I melted into normalcy a little and said, “Can you help me?” Our eyes met and …

Her eyelashes were incredible!

There were no clumps, no flakes on her face, no black smudges beneath her lower lashes. Every eyelash was perfectly separated from the others, long and blackest black. I swallowed my anxiety while tears of relief leaked down my cheeks. “What mascara are you wearing?”

She walked over to it, pulled it down and began explaining that, although it’s slightly more expensive than most that Wal-Mart has to offer, it’s the best she’s found. The package had a white tube and a rose gold tube. The white one was primer, and she explained how to use it and why it was a good purchase in general. She had no idea I was already sold on this product just because I saw her wearing it, so she prattled on a bit before handing the mascara over to me. I thanked her profusely and grabbed a second one for my daughter. I should have grabbed a few more because we all know it might be the last time I see it at Wal-Mart, but for now, I have the BEST mascara in the world.

Seriously.

This is a lot like how it is when others come to us searching for something. They come desperate. Empty. Bewildered. They’ve no doubt been searching for a while – in vain – for something to satisfy their deepest needs and finally, our worlds collide, and people see that we have what they need so desperately.

Jesus.

People don’t come to Jesus because of our testimony. Our testimony helps us overcome. It’s a reminder for those hard times, so that we will keep going with confidence that the God who got us through will do it again. That’s what scripture says; “They triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and by the Word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11). Our testimony creates a “Cool story, bro” moment. People like to hear it, and it might give them something to think about or crave in their own lives. They might try Jesus out with hesitancy based on our testimony, unsure if that’s what they want and more prone to walk away in the trying times when their lives don’t fit the narrative we’ve created. But do you know what makes people sell out to our God? Seeing us with God all over us. When we walk, talk and act like Jesus is alive on the inside of us, we erase every measure of doubt in regards to His goodness. When people can look at us and see the effects of “Christ in me,” they will come to Him because the difference in our lives is unmistakable and beautiful and everything they wish they had. Peace, joy, love, kindness, patience, self-control. All the fruits of the Spirit of God, which cannot be emulated. They can only be purchased by Jesus and given to us in exchange for our acknowledgement and repentance. Wear Jesus, friends, and be a walking billboard for the God you serve!

 

Ten Virgins, Revisited

Published August 29, 2018 by Dawn

As I climbed into bed early last night, the Lord laid a story on my heart that promised I’d be up learning from the Holy Spirit for way past my bedtime. It was the parable of the ten virgins.

Recap for those who need it: these ten women were awaiting a wedding party. They all brought their lamps (I guess because they didn’t have electric at the time), and they all fell asleep waiting for their friends to show up. When they awoke at the sound of a wedding celebration heading into the venue, five of them were ready to go in and celebrate. The other five were mortified to find that their lamps were useless! They had neglected to prepare and had to run into town for more oil, while the party started without them. When they got back, they couldn’t get in!

I’ve always read this story with a vague understanding of what it meant. I hope I’m not the only one because that’s embarrassing, but when I read the part about the oil and being unprepared, I just took it to mean you have to be ready when Jesus comes … whatever that means. As I laid in bed listening, the Holy Spirit reminded me that in scripture, the oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit’s presence and anointing in one’s life. Suddenly, I realized what it meant to be prepared!

The Holy Spirit is a friend of fellowship. You don’t walk in with the Spirit just because you asked Jesus into your heart. You walk with the Spirit as you get to know the Spirit. How do you get to know the Spirit of God? The Word of God. Because according to John 1, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Akin to this verse is the whole of Proverbs 8, which I believe is the Holy Spirit’s autobiography. The narrator of that chapter is Wisdom, and Wisdom claims to have been with God from the beginning as well. Our spiritual wisdom is imparted through the Holy Spirit, because who knows the mind of God? The spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11). We can only know God through His Spirit, and we can only get acquainted with the Spirit of God through prayer and Bible reading.

This parable, then, isn’t an ambiguous statement about being prepared for Jesus’ return. It’s a parable that highlights the importance of fellowship with the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. According to this parable, if we aren’t prepared with the oil, we’ll miss it. We’ll be left outside the gate, which symbolizes eternal damnation.  Our time in the Word and in prayer prepares us for our eternal fellowship with Christ. If we aren’t fellowshipping with the Spirit of God now, why would we ever think we’ll be comfortable in Heaven? Because in truth, God makes flesh uncomfortable. To the point of death! If we walk in the flesh here, we’ll not be prepared for the presence and atmosphere of God. We’ll be unable to partake in His gift of eternity.

I think this parable is so important. It’s a warning, really. If you aren’t in your Word, and don’t have a strong prayer life, you will not be ready when Jesus comes to take His bride. I certainly do not want Him passing me by and telling me He doesn’t know me when I come knocking! Do you?