Monday, December 30, 2013

12 Steps to Defeat Depression: Spirituality and Prayer Part 2

            And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.
            So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, “Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice,. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!”
            When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.”
            So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate.
            Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fast and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”
            And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’
            “But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return unto me.” 2 Samuel 15-23

            Amazing, isn’t it? How did David do that?
            Having lost a child at birth, I’ve always wondered how David could arise, freshen himself up, go to the temple specifically to worship the LORD, have a meal and resume life so seamlessly after learning that his child had died. I didn’t want to do most of those things, for weeks, or months!
            The passage doesn’t say that his heart still didn’t hurt, so we shouldn’t assume he wasn’t internally wounded and sorrowful. But he rises up with a confident assurance 1) that his baby’s spirit had entered into the presence of God—and; 2) that he, David, would one day join him there. 
            For six days David lay prostrate before God, begging for his newborn baby’s life. But when God said no, David accepted that answer without rebellion, without anger, without excuses, without questions, and without doubt.
            In spite of his pain, he chose to focus on something else: living, promises, hopes and dreams.
            How could David do that?
            Well, you could logically argue that David may have felt like he deserved it because the child was a product of his dangerous, selfish, adulterous liaison with Bathsheba that produced the child. His actions may indeed, have been driven by those feelings, or the feeling of guilt David had for purposefully getting Bathsheba’s husband killed to cover up the illicit affair.
            But it’s more than that. So much more.
            David knows God. David has trusted Him since he was a boy; he and God already had a long history together. David really knows God’s character, His unwavering faithfulness, His promises, His word. His perfect love. And David expects God to fulfill the promises He’s made about the future, like He always has. No questions; no doubt.
            David is deeply spiritual about his response because he has a deep, loving, abiding relationship with God, his heavenly Father.
            And he knew that even when the outcome is bad, God is always good.
            David had faith, and he demonstrated it perfectly by his actions. He trusted God and His bigger, unseen plan.
            (In case you didn’t know it, “faith” and “hope” are action verbs, not passive, wait-around-to-see-what-happens kind of words.)
            Do you have that kind of faith, or any faith at all? Do your actions demonstrate it?
            Consider the following thoughts of Christyn, who was expecting her fourth child amidst beyond-difficult circumstances: Her seven-year-old daughter had been hospitalized for six months and endured six surgeries for a disease of the pancreas. Her husband had lost his job. Several family members had recently died, and another had been diagnosed with brain cancer. She wrote in her blog:
            “I held to the faith that God works for good, and though I did not necessarily
            understand the trials, I trust God’s bigger, unseen plan.
            God and I had a deal—I would endure the trials that came my way as long as
            He acknowledged my stopping point. He knew where my line had been drawn,
            and I knew in my heart He would never cross it.
            He did. I delivered a stillborn baby girl. With my daughter Rebecca still at home
            on a feeding tube and her future health completely unknown, it was a foregone
            conclusion that this baby we so wanted and loved would be saved. She wasn’t.
            My line in the sand was crossed. My one-way deal with God was shattered.
            Everything changed in that moment. Fear set in, and my faith began to crumble.
            My “safety zone” with God was no longer safe. If this could happen in the
            midst of our greatest struggles, then anything was fair game. For the first time
            in my life, anxiety began to overwhelm me.”

            Oh, how I can relate to Christyn! After Victoria’s death—God’s “no” to me and my beseeching heart—I realized that anything is fair game. And I think that’s why it bothers me so much when I hear people blithely say, “Oh, everything will be all right.”
            I always think to myself, Will it? I don’t know that. I know what life is like, and I know what God is capable of asking, what he might expect of me again. I know things won’t always go the way I want them to go, and that’s what sometimes scares me.
            As Max Lucado says in his book, you’ll get through this: hope and help for your turbulent times, “Most, if not all of us, have a contractual agreement with God. The fact that He hasn’t signed it doesn’t keep us from believing it. I pledge to be a good, decent person, and in return God will…save my child, heal my wife, protect my job. (Fill in the blank.)
            Only fair, right? Yet when God fails to meet our bottom-line expectations, we are 
left spinning in a tornado of questions.”
              I’m sure you have your own questions, probably a multitude of them jumbled with bewilderment, doubts, anger, and confused interpretations.
            As Max Lucado goes on to say, “But we must let God define good. Our definition includes health, comfort and recognition. His definition? In the case of his son, Jesus Christ, the good life consisted of struggles, storms and death. But God worked it all together for the greatest good: His glory and our salvation.
            “Our choice comes down to this: Trust God or turn away. He will cross the line. He 
will shatter our expectations. And we will be left to make a decision.”

            And that’s what David was left with: a decision. And he didn’t flinch when making it. He rose up, washed, worshiped, ate, and set his face like a flint to move forward amidst the devastating realities of his life. To move forward, while believing wholeheartedly in God and His everlasting promises. Not necessarily fully understanding God, but trusting Him in spite of not having all of the answers.
            If you think that David never suffered abject feelings of defeat or depression, one reading trip through the Psalms will convince you otherwise. But David learned about God and His faithfulness from those hard-knock lessons, and he learned to trust Him.
            And that is true spirituality! Not thinking deeply about yourself, or emptying your mind, or trying to cart your spirit off to some higher, invisible plane where all spirits will eventually congregate and meld into one, big happy fog.
            It’s believing in Someone bigger than yourself. It’s trusting that Someone for and with your life, for the beginning, the middle, the end. All of it.
            Christyn makes her choice and ends her blog post by saying:
           “I have spent weeks trying to figure out why a God I so love could let this
            happen to my family at such a time. The only conclusion I came to was this:
            I have to give up my line in the sand. I have to offer my entire life, every
            minute portion of it, to God’s control regardless of the outcome.
            “My family is in God’s hands. No lines have been drawn, no deals made. I
            have given our lives to the Lord. Peace has entered where panic once resided,
            and calmness settled where anxiety once rule.” 

            Now, that, my beloved, is spirituality.

            For those of you who remain skeptical, here are the major reasons I have chosen to believe God and His word, the Bible:

~ Despite forty authors, the Bible tells the same story, and it’s backed by archeological
~ The Bible contains hundreds of fulfilled prophecies;
~ The Bible has been confirmed by testimonies of emperors, kings and historians.
~ The Bible is the most preserved ancient record of all time, perfectly describing
             humanity and the human condition.
~ Jesus proclaimed himself to be the Son of God and the Messiah, and he acted like it, by 
             healing the blind, lame and sick, raising the dead, enduring torture, and 
             deliberately, voluntarily embracing death and sacrificing Himself on a cruel 
             Roman cross, and then rising to life again the third day following His 
            That last fact is the ultimate evidence and proof of his deity.

             As C.S. Lewis commented in his book, Mere Christianity, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to   be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can  shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
          As an American television journalist recently put it, “If Christ did not die on the   cross and rise from the dead, it has been the greatest con job in history.”

            Finally, the most important reason I can give for believing is that I have met Jesus, and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He exists. And if you continue with me through my story—through my doubt, anxiety, spiritual darkness and attacks, and the magnificent miracles—you will see and know Him too, and rejoice.
            Believing in Christ and His promises is what keeps me going; it’s what gets me out of bed to face the world on those spiritually and emotionally dark, oppressive days. It’s what gives me hope for the future, makes me smile when I least feel like smiling, and lightens my heart when the silent, inexplicable, intangible burden nears the point of crushing me. 

            If there is one thing I’ve learned it is that all of this pain won’t last forever, but I will. And I’m also convinced that when I finally experience the wonder of heaven, I will know that it will have all been worth it, and I’ll probably wonder why I did not graciously withstand more.  

            As we approach a fresh start of a New Year, I’d like to leave you with the following truths to ponder and, hopefully, rejoice over:
            “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Message
            “That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creations is being more or less held back. God reins iti in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead,. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.” Romans 8:18-21, The Message

            And finally:
            “I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: ‘Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.’ The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new…’” Revelation 21: 3-5a, The Message

             May you feel Him making everything new in your heart!
NEXT WEEK: The power of prayer… 
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me, and
Happy New Year!


Monday, December 23, 2013

12 Steps to Defeat Depression: Spirituality and Prayer Part 1

Our trouble is that we have established bad thought habits. We habitually think of the visible world as real and doubt the reality of any other. We do not deny the existence of the spiritual world but we doubt that it is real in the accepted meaning of the word.  
                                                              ~A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God


“I’m not a religious person, but I am spiritual.”

Ever hear that comment?

Here’s what people who say that usually mean:

“I don’t like ritual. I don’t have to go to church on Sundays, Saturday nights, or any other day of the week to be in touch with God, or a higher power. I don’t have to connect with people in a church or join a religious group to think and feel deep, spiritual thoughts. (Actually, doing that and hanging out with those judgmental hypocrites actually gets in my way.)

“I’ve tried a little of this and a little of that; I’ve connected with myself, nature and others around me. I do good things. I work on my self-esteem so I can love others and foster relationships. This gives me a deep sense of my place in life and in a greater good.” (Whatever” greater good” means.)

And what many imply is that even if they don’t believe anything specific, all of their good-deeds-done will certainly get the attention of God, or that higher power, and gain them a ticket into heaven, or whatever self-actualization realm they aspire to, when the time comes.

Or it could be they believe “all that religious stuff” is just man-made, unnecessary rubbish. A horrid time-waster.

Or, it could be a combination of all of the above, with a little bit of every "religious belief" and philosophy carefully mixed together. 

I once made this point to someone during a rather heated conversation about religion: “Well, if you combine a little of this and a little of that, then what you eventually come up with is the religion of _________________ (insert person’s name).”

“Well, what’s wrong with that!?” they countered, looking surprised and insulted.



Because what if you’re wrong?”

They angered at my response, cast me a vicious look, quickly pivoted and walked away. Nobody likes hearing they may be wrong. And I suspect that what incensed them even more is that they assumed I thought—or was telling them—that I knew I was right.

Make no mistake about it: What you believe does make a difference, because wrong believing leads to wrong behavior!  It affects every aspect of your life.

And I’m not talking about being wrong about the little things; I’m talking about the BIG things, the things that matter most—in this life and into the next.

Did you notice my wording in the last sentence? Yes, I did mean to imply that what you believe in this life will make it or break it for you as you face eternity and move into it. So spirituality does matter! Who you know does, and will, make a difference. It always has, both in fleshly and spiritual life.

Oh, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with building up one’s self-esteem, (although many Christians will argue that with me), especially since so many people emerge from childhood with a crummy, misguided, unhealthy vision of self and spend a lifetime trying to make up for it. (Research shows that the majority of comments that parents give to their children are of the negative variety, by an average of seventeen-to-one!)

(This also includes kids who grow up believing they’re god’s gift to the world, and can do anything or achieve anything—and, by-the-way, the world owes them—just because they exist. That’s also unhealthy, poor self-esteem.)

There’s also nothing wrong with being energized by viewing nature or spending quality time in it, (see my meditation and mindfulness posts), although I do reject what most people mean when they say they “connect with it,” since, by definition, connecting, means: “to join, fasten together; to associate or consider related; to be joined or united to; being related to.” Being “connected” to nature in this way is a pantheistic belief. (Pantheism generally promotes the belief that all forms of reality—nature, people, animals, life—are considered either modes of God or part of Him.)  

Let’s not confuse spirituality with mindfulness, a vital component of the spiritual.

We are all designed to interact with other people: encouraging, helping, being encouraged and helped, as we make this journey together.

Because we’re complex beings, comprised of mind, body and spirit, it is critical that we nurture all parts and not dismiss or neglect the spiritual part. (The part that most often gets neglected.)
Nurturing the spiritual brings a healthy balance to your life, and research evidence links immune system function to spiritual well-being. And for eternity’s sake, it is the most important part of our existence.

We all draw a spiritual line for ourselves, and stand on one side of it or another. (If you’re agnostic, you straddle it, which really isn’t very comfortable.)

If you’ve read my blog for some time, you know on what side of the spiritual line I fall.  

I believe that God exits. Not, “a god,” but God. One, manifested in three persons. And that belief is the foundation of my life, the cornerstone upon which I plant and root my spiritual and physical existence. It’s what I cling to when life gets ugly, what drags me out of the trenches when I’m mired in mud and sucking slop. It’s what soothes my soul when depression, sadness and gloom threaten to destroy me physically, mentally and emotionally.

Are you unsure whether you need God in order to be spiritual?

Consider what the French physicist, mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal believed: that all human beings make a bet with their lives on whether God does or does not exist. You either do, or you don’t, and whatever decision you make, you either act (live) like you do or you act (live) like you don’t.

Like it or not, we all must confront the same question:

Do you believe in God, or do you not?

Is spirituality important? Absolutely!

Why? Because, at its core, true spirituality gives you a sense of purpose, something that is often very hard to come by when you’re suffering in depression.

As the biblical verse reminds us: “… to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

And isn’t that what we all crave: life and peace?

How appropriate it is that we should embark upon our spirituality discussion just days, or hours, before millions around the world celebrate the birth of the most important human being to have ever lived. The man, who in three short years—and an even more dramatic three days—managed to turn the world upside down. 

The man who came to earth for the specific reason for you to know God and truly know what it means to be spiritually rich!

The man who came so you could have peace.

He proclaimed His coming first to men considered by their nation to be the most worthless in society. He chose to glorify—by His birth—a little, globally insignificant town called Bethlehem. The kings of the earth ignored Him, (until one got word that he might have some unexpected competition); and the proud have never been able to understand Him, or His purpose. And because they don’t understand, they arrogantly choose to reject or flippantly dismiss Him.

He proclaimed and physically demonstrated the invincible love of God for all mankind, so that we could be enabled to unconditionally love ourselves and others, forgive ourselves and others, and bring our lives into the miraculous grace and glory of God!

This man, Jesus—who embodies spirituality—is the most important gift mankind has ever received.

As you celebrate Christmas, reflect on the most precious gift you have ever been given:

God, all wrapped up in human flesh.

May the joy and promise of Christmas past, present and future fill your hearts with joy, peace and hope!

Merry Christmas!  


NEXT WEEK: More spirituality, reasons and proofs for God; just who is God? and why the answer to that question matters to you. Also, how you respond to spiritual battles affects whether you’ll have victory over depression, or continual defeat.

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!