Posts Tagged: devotional

Love, the Remedy for Second Hand Depression

Job 30:15“Terrors are turned against me; They pursue my honor as the wind, And my prosperity has passed away like a cloud. 16“And now my soul is poured out within me; Days of affliction have seized me. 17“At night it pierces my bones within me, And my gnawing pains take no rest.…

What do we do when loved ones are giving up on life? Is there such a thing as secondhand depression? Yes, I believe that there is. Like Job’s wife, do we respond, “Curse God and die.”? I don’t think she said those things because she hated Job. I believe she had given into fear. Fear of the circumstances, fear of the onslaught, and fear of loss. She was like Ruth’s mother-in-law, telling her people to no longer call her Naomi, but to call her Marah (Bitter).  We are asking, what kind of God allows this kind of suffering?!

The last year with Jonathan was hard! His personality changed so completely that sometimes he said awful things to us. He refused medical care, and he fought mightily with a desire to give up. I was on my knees crying out to God so many times that I was often horse. At moments the fear of losing Jonathan was more tangible than God’s presence, and I struggled to love. Fear and love cannot occupy the same space; fear is a cancer, mimicking normal cells of concern so that we don’t fight its systematic takeover of our ability to love. But fight we must! I don’t mean strive and claw our way out of depression, I’m talking about LETTING GOD FIGHT FOR US. Only when I finally handed Jonathan’s wellbeing over to God could I finally love my son, come what may. Those last few months were the best they could be between the two of us.

Mother Theresa and the Sister’s of Charity ministered with love, to those often cursing back at them as they were dying. I have been studying her character for a while, and I am learning how much depression is based on control and conditions. I want to be in control and I am depressed when I am not. We want to be loved back! But oh the power to change the world, when we love from the vantage point of the cross. Are you in the midst of loving someone who may never love you back? Well God has been doing that since the creation of the world. For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son. That whosoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16) That kind of love is the model for how we are to love those who are struggling with depression. Accepting His love which has no possible repayment is the cure for secondhand depression. Loving like Christ is productive suffering!

I Have Never Been Stranded on Mars, but if I were . . .

“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.” –Mark Watney (The Martian)

I have had a multitude of troubles thrown my way, but I can honestly say, I have never been stranded on Mars. In the early days after Jonathan’s death a friend asked, “How are you doing this? How are you able to function?”

My answer, “I’m not.”

I knew several things almost instantly the day Jonathan died.

  1. This was hell on earth.
  2. I could not stand in this furnace alone.
  3. I would grieve with hope.

Galatians 2:20I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

I live, because Christ lives. The more I am crucified with Christ, my fleshly desire to have Jonathan alive dies. So many of us do not get over losing our children because it is a way of keeping them alive in our minds. God does not say, “Just get over it.” He mourns with us! At the same time he invites us to the realization that God will be glorified. We cannot stare longingly at the grave of our past and expect to resurrect what is not within God’s will. We must keep our eyes fixed upon the cross if we want to live.

I wrestle with this aspect of God’s character, but I also know he did not spare his own son. When Jesus started talking to the followers about “eating his flesh”, many walked away. (John 6:53) This is a hard teaching! Will I leave Jesus because I cannot fully get my mind around what he is asking of me? No! Who else in this world has changed my life. Who else has loved me like you? You are the Christ and my salvation is in you alone.

I am finding that the cross is the juxtaposition of Christ! Opposites collide on the cross– life and death, pain and pleasure, law and grace, sin and holiness, shame and glory. On the cross Jesus understands, both my deepest sorrow, and the heights of his fathers glory. And as I die my spirit is revealed more and more. I pray that I too, one day, can fully state. “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” I don’t have to scramble, alone, to solve enough problems to get home. Christ already solved them for me on the cross. I’m already home!

 

Delivered from the Dead Life

Romans 8: 9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesusd from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (ESV)

9-11But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! (The Message)
Clearly, I sit close to death. My tent pegs are set in the valley of the shadow of death. My campfire struggles against the icy blasts of the grave . . . but it does not go out! For the past few days I have been looking at my surroundings and asking, “Why have you placed me here Lord?” I question, not out of complaint, but out of a genuine desire to understand God’s purpose. I want to fully participate in his plan of salvation.
God is delivering me from the dead life by causing me to die completely to self. I know, weird right. But, think about this, when a surgeon is doing a heart surgery they most often stop your heart in order to repair or replace what isn’t working. God operates on our bodies in much the same way.
In this valley of the shadow of death, God is removing all fear. I have some hardcore fleshly reflexes that hinder my spirit from living life to the fullest. God is using my near death experiences to open my eyes to the power that heaven has here on earth, right now.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven . . . (Lord’s prayer)
I’ve said that phrase almost 2,000 times since my birth and I only have a cursory understanding of its meaning. I’ve met men and women who bridge the divide of heaven and earth. I’ve witnessed their discipline and drive towards obedience to the Lord’s will. This is not just a “because he is Jesus” prayer! He invited his disciples into heaven’s activities, which means that it is possible for the rest of us. There is no elite Christian team! We are all ragamuffins, capable of bringing down giants when we die to self and live for Christ.
Lord, reveal heaven to me and may I have the eyes to see your glory on earth. Amen!

 

Getting a Leg Up

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I fell again today, already nursing a sprained foot! As everyone came running to aid the pitiful woman sprawled out on the dentist room floor I laughed. In painful moments, sometimes, laughter is the only sane response. As pain roared through my knee and I struggled back to my feet I didn’t even fool with asking God why?

Instead I asked, what is the advantage of a sprained ankle? Well, for starters, it is forcing me to the doctor because beyond the sprain I was diagnosed with bone spurs and arthritis. There is a reason for my foot pain. I must once again humble myself to ask for help from others. My sprained ankle is putting me in places and opportunities to share the gospel that I would not normally be. Once again I praise God that he is completely able to sustain me! There may be further things revealed and I am open to the possibilities!

Symphany of Your Presence

Isaiah 50:4The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.

Weary today. I choose to turn from my weariness and praise you Lord, for you are present, and my portion. Thank you for loving me and satisfying me with manna from heaven.

I can snuggle into winter’s night and fine tune my ear to the symphony of your presence singing me to sleep. I can be still in the knowledge that you are God. That is enough today.

Betrayed by the body

Lamentations:320Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me. 21This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.…

Matthew 26:38Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

 

Sometimes our body betrays our attempts at escaping depression. Chronic pain, chronic insomnia, chronic stress all break down our body. In other words, our body comes into agreement with depression. So when we begin to change our thinking and our actions the body doesn’t always respond, sometimes because of physical illness it will never be able to respond and at times it out and out rebels.

I often joke that I’m so used to chaos that panic ensues when I experience something normal. Anyone who has ever had an addiction can attest to the war between the body and new habits. Caffeine withdraw can cause headaches, because our body becomes used to caffeine and craves it. Our body can crave depression.

Don’t lose heart when the body doesn’t respond to hope or new habits of acting in faith. Keep forming new ways of thinking, interact with humanity because it IS the right thing to do, not because it feels right. Do what is good, even if the body betrays you.

Whom Do You Fear?

Luke 12:4-5 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5“But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6“Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.…

Whom do you fear this Halloween? There is a house on my street my kids avoid every year because things in the yard move and jump out at them. Is it the monsters under the bed, or the person that sucks the life out of you because they are harsh and abusive in words or deed?

Real or imagined we all have fears. I’m afraid of heights and being trapped in small spaces. I battle the fear of losing the rest of my family because of Jonathan’s death. All of these are earthly fears, and they will one day, literally, pass away. These fears often cause us to avoid God, hurt others, or hurt ourselves. Some of you live in the most painful of realities. But there is one fear that is life changing, one fear that should be more tangible than what torture life may put us through.

It is the fear of the Lord.

Unlike earthly fears, we are transformed by this relationship founded upon fear! “He is not a tame lion, but he is good.” (Mr. Beaver, The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe)

Take a look at these verses:

Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall …

Psalm 19:9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The

Revelation 14:7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the …

2 Chronicles 19:7 Fear the LORD and judge with integrity, for the LORD our God does not tolerate
perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes.”

Job 28:28 He has commanded mankind: ‘To fear the Lord—that is wisdom; to move away from evil—that is understanding.'”

Amos 3:8 The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy

Proverbs 14:27The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.

What are the results of fearing God?

fear = strong confidence

fear = worship

fear = wisdom

fear = pure, enduring forever

fear = integrity

fear = prophesy

fear = life

Fear of God releases us from the fear of man or anything else that may intend us harm on this earth!

True Discipleship: I’m not a Minion

I’m not a minion just following Christ because he’s the biggest, badest dude. I am a follower of a God who is involved in my life, who cares, nurtures, laughs and cries with me. One who is moved with grief that we struggle so deeply  with our depressed state. He is a God who comforts. Seems to me that a God who came off his throne, took on our flesh, limited himself to eat, drink and go fishing with us, would want his disciples to do the same.

Discipleship is messy. It means that we can’t keep our distance, it means that our sin marked scars will be exposed, and it means that we can’t be counting the numbers.  Jesus went after the one who was lost, even if he had a crowd of followers. He helped the child destroyed by demonic forces. He healed the sick, he dined with tax collectors. He dined with Pharisees. God dined with me! I am that lost sheep that Jesus pursued. I am that one that he said was worth dying for. Anyone who wants to be a fisher of men has to be in the pool where the fish are biting. There is no formula, sharing the gospel is as individual as our fingerprints.

Discipleship starts with following Jesus.

“Come follow me, ” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men. Matthew 4:19 (Notice that Jesus didn’t say you need to make yourself a fisher of men. HE WILL MAKE us in his image!)

Seeing the needs of those around you.

When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

Acting on those needs now, the harvest is ripe.

Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Matthew 9:37

Discipleship is not complicated, it is actually rather simple. In fact, many of our idols have “groupies” that make decisions on wardrobe, hair and behavior based upon the person they have plastered on their wall. Who are you studying? Who is it that you moves you to action? We all follow something or someone. I follow Christ and therefore my words are meant to draw you closer to the one who changed me!

There is nothing like witnessing  God’s love catching fire in the bosom of another. I get a front row seat to God’s unfolding plan in your life! I am in constant prayer as I speak to you, asking for discernment. Many of you are struggling with deep heart and soul pain, as well as physical. I don’t always say the right words and that used to bother me. But, sharing grace isn’t about perfection, it is about presence!

May I be a light, present in the darkness. True discipleship is sharing the reality of Christ’s active role in my life, I carry a cross, not a silver spoon! Life has not been easy for me; I have many sorrows.  I am learning to the depth of my being that my contentment comes from Christ alone, my hope is in him, and my joy is in that in his realm we are raised from the dead! For the past year I have been discipled, even as I disciple others. I was guided to scriptures that refresh my weary soul and speak truth over my circumstances when I find myself wanting to believe lies. I was strengthened by being in community with another, further along in her journey.

Participating in the Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Sunday I was deeply burdened and hopeful as I turned another page on suicide. So many men and women walked with me, deeply wounded by depression and suicide, just like me! I want to offer hope and discipleship gives me the opportunity to share through relationship. At times it feels like I’m attempting to hold back a tidal wave, but by God’s love, grace and discipline, I continue to stand in the darkness and cry out NO MORE!  I cannot offer you anything less than what sustains me in my grief. Disciples of Christ do not stand alone, the Spirit stands with us. He lit the candles of the first disciples, and they lit many candles after Jesus, all the way to this present moment. Discipleship is lighting a candle, then another, and another until the world isn’t so dark any more.

Turning the Page on Arrogance

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

If I were God, chocolate and coke would never add to my weight, my husband would be my fairytale prince, my children would obey without question, and I would never allow another child to be lost to suicide. Just in writing the above sentence I notice that your desires are not reflected. Every last bit of what I just wrote are my own wants. But isn’t this an accurate depiction of our thoughts? We often measure God by the shallowness of our own thinking. One only needs to look at Jesus to see that God shatters the way that individuals, society, our government and our world thinks.

Man’s Thinking =All roads lead to heaven vs. God’s Thinking= Narrow is the path that leads to righteousness (right living) and wide is the path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14)

Man’s Thinking = Self Preservation vs. God’s thinking= If you want to gain your life you have to lose it (Luke 7:33)

Man’s Thinking = We build our governments vs. God’s thinking = Daniel 2:21 . . .He removes kings and establishes kings; . . .

I am arrogant in my man centered thinking. I judge God by what I would do in his place. I question the goodness of his plan. Arrogance means: an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions. (Merriam-Webster).  A close relation to arrogance is arrogate: to take or claim (something, such as a right or a privilege) in a way that is not fair or legal. Both literally mean “away from asking”.  And at the heart of arrogance is a lack of submission to God’s will.  I struggle to ask God his thoughts on healing the heartache and brokenness so many experience.

Have you ever been blindfolded and had to trust others to lead you? Fine in familiar territory, but would you trust others to lead you safely across a busy street? That is what trusting God is often feels like for me. Except my blindfold is sin. God is asking me to trust his goodness, his will, his upside down plan that results in a perfect plan for the salvation of many.

I WANT TO SEE WHERE I’M GOING! Our trust stops where we lose control of the path to the final outcome. I am totally out of control of the path to turning the page on the suicide epidemic. That is hard. To trust that God cares more for what is happening to us, our friends and family who suffer depression, mental illness, and despair than I do, takes an acceptance of his upside down plan. I want to be God in turning ending this nightmare, yet his way is often through slavery, deserts, pits, and loss.

But oh my goodness do I want the results!!! Joseph, is one of the Old Testament men who is a founding rock of my faith. He was almost murdered, sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into prison and forgotten by man, but God showed him favor. God lead him (blindfolded by his own version of the dream) into second in command to pharaoh! In this position he saves many nations from famine and rescues his own family from certain death. Not the path Joseph saw coming, but he trusted God to lead him through anything. Can you and I trust God to lead us to an outcome that will always save many?

I Don’t Know What My Life Will Be Like Tomorrow

James 4:14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

I don’t remember what we were doing the day before my son died. I know that I prayed for Jonathan, I was in the habit of that, and since Brian had taken the week off for vacation we were having fun with Daniel and Natalie, but I don’t remember the details.

We don’t know what the next moment holds–celebration or pain. We are commanded to neither be in fear of the next second nor hold so tightly to things staying the same that we miss out on the joys that come in the morning. Today my kids built an amazing domino tower. I cleaned the garage and started a step program. I held Natalie who doesn’t feel well and scared the snot out of Daniel who was attempting to scare me. I laughed, I sang, I prayed . . . and I turn the page.

Tomorrow I open my heart wide to what the Lord has for me in that day.

Love Always,

Karisa

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