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!