4 Scriptural Promises that Speak the Language of Anxiety and Depression

Ray Of Light Forest Trees Sunlight Sun Sunbeam

The specter of mental health in this century is driving us all a little nuts.

I have a heart for those who deal with anxiety and depression. Having taught in public school systems for five years, I’ve seen it up close, including some particularly conducive environments. And, really, a look around at the world will reveal it readily. In these last days, these darknesses have closed in ever more tightly – though, as they say, the night is darkest just before the dawn.

God’s steadfast love manifests in some promises that speak the language of anxiety and depression.

1. “I do not condemn you for this.”

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Many Christians are under the impression that depression is a sin, a failure to adequately read (or believe) Scripture. They rebuke the anxious and depressed accordingly.

I don’t count myself in this camp. Anxiety and depression can stem from a place of spiritual ignorance (how depressing our future would be indeed without the hope of God!). But they can also be chemical, seasonal, hormonal, the product of spiritual warfare, or simply the soul’s response to tragedy. I know people whose depression clears up merely upon drinking caffeine, or changing one’s lifestyle or thought patterns.

More importantly, condemnation of the mentally beleaguered forgets the work of the cross. If actual sins like extramarital sex, drug addiction, and murder cannot block God’s forgiveness for the repentant, then anxiety and depression most certainly cannot. They are instead candidates for God’s compassion – as are we all.

2. “I’m happy to reassure you as often as you need.”

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:22-23)

One hallmark of anxiety and depression is seeking frequent reassurance of love – even from those who are closest and most loyal. Ever felt like you’re always vaguely “in trouble” somehow? Ever seen a friend act distant because of who knows what and assumed the problem is you, that you upset them with some little offhand word or action and they’re just too polite to tell you? Anxiety brings this stuff in spades.

I have friends with severe anxiety, and it’s amazing to watch their spouses. They know their mates’ needs, and they’ll “check in” emotionally with them on a regular basis. During a long church function, they won’t let a couple hours pass without giving them the attention they need to reassure them that everything is still okay. Though knowing they can’t be God to their spouses, they offer what they can. They don’t groan, roll their eyes, or tell their struggling spouses to buck up. They took “in sickness and in health” seriously. (Singles, are you preparing your hearts for this level of uncomplaining devotion?)

Well, it’s not like God will be outdone in compassion by a human. He, too, overflows. He is not stingy, doling out a little love here and there, expecting it to tide us over for weeks and then chiding us when we long for more. Nothing in Scripture suggests that sort of thing. He welcomes a daily dependence on him, promotes it, encourages it. If he gets frustrated over anything, it’s that we don’t depend on him, that we do try the weeks-long independence thing and wind up dry and desolate!

No, God loves to check in with us. His words of love are written down in black and white, available with the simple turning of a page; the sunshine, oxygen, and moisture in the atmosphere do not run out; and he tells us to be filled with his Spirit, a regular activity like eating or drinking. He is not embarrassed or annoyed that we seek him again and again; he is delighted. And responsive.

3. “My power and strength are available to you.”

I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

What more needs said? Life with anxiety and depression need not be a weary, half-conscious stumble. Instead, it can be a valiant fight. God has made so much available – not just through practical strategies but from the very armories of heaven. No matter our progress, the choice is clear. Fight – God is on your side.

4. “You will get a new mind one day.”

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Imagine the moment we see God and receive our glorified bodies. New minds will come with them.

Imagine the incessant weight of sadness lifted, falling from our souls like useless scales, never to burden us again. Imagine constant lightness of heart, for no reason other than God always wanted it for us. No more chronic, racing overthinking, or endless suspicion, or that corner of your soul that perpetually waits for the other shoe to drop. Every corner of our soul now conquered and owned and healed fully by God.

Until then, it’s a war. No doubt about it. But the war will end. For the Christian, God has planned an entirely new body and mind, and nothing can avert his work. It will be yours. In the meantime, I’m praying for you, and rooting for you.

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Jesus Doesn’t Run Viking Ships: What I Think about an Abusive Ministry Revealed in My Valley

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Imagine you’re drowning. Your head has slipped beneath the surface. You see a beckoning hand burst through from above. Desperate, you remember Jesus’ offer to Peter and grab it. Anything for life.

But instead of being hoisted dripping into the vessel of Christ, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, you’re swung aboard a Viking ship and set upon the oars against a gale. There, you have unrelenting and hostile demands laid upon you day and night, serving not the risen Lord but a human – one claiming to command in His name.

That’s how this feels right now.

Our local paper just dropped a long-researched expose on a respected ministry internship program in our valley. It revealed stories of poor conditions, abuse, manipulation, and inappropriate conversations, thankfully now in the process of being shut down.

I recognized many of the red flags of cult behavior as I slogged through the cringeworthy article. Mental manipulation tactics. Separation from the outside world. Sleep deprivation, a classic tool for disorienting and subjugating. Control of every facet of the students’ lives. Slander of detractors. There’s no shortage of outrage generators here.

Though it all grieves me, what really jumped out to me was that the ministry leader allegedly…

…“preys on the vulnerable” and offers people with histories of problems with drugs, poverty and abuse an “opportunity to turn your life around.” … “Do you come from a messed-up background? Did you have an eating disorder? We’re the perfect place for you.”

This. Seeing a sublime, awe-inspiring core truth of the faith – that the broken and repentant are God’s delight – twisted despicably against them.

Awful, because it’s true.

The broken and humble are God’s delight.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench (Matt. 12:20).

Is this not the God who chose nobodies, stutterers, weaklings, cowards, murderers, and adulterers to be his friends and co-heirs? It is God’s modus operandi, his telltale signature upon our stories. The church is intended as a haven for them.

Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Cor. 1:27)

He does this to show his compassion…and his strength. It’s a shorter trip for the strong to become his servants, but for the weak and broken to be transformed…only God could do that. We all know it. And so he does it.

Hey, he uses me.

To see this pearl thrown to swine in the case of this ministry is appalling. Yet you see it in cults all the time – preying on people who haven’t yet learned how to stand on their own, haven’t yet learned to seek their joy and peace in God so that they aren’t hooked into the world for it and yanked around like evergreen branches in a gale. God is patient as we learn, but humans see only an opportunity.

To those damaged by this ministry, I’m praying for you, as are many. That you would be healed, but also that Satan’s theft of this truth – that God loves and pursues the broken – will not be completed. You are loved. The hand pierced by nails is still extended. And you will not land amiss.

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you feel this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Talking to a Generation in Pain

storm-3329982_640A childhood bouncing between foster homes, never once getting to stay and just be “gotten”.

The friend whose sibling just stopped talking.

Years of chronic pain from, of all things, falling out of a chair wrong.

This week has been a rough reminder of the valley through which an entire generation is slowly plodding en masse. My friends’ stories are piling up.

Feeling invisible because your siblings on either side get more attention.

Miscarriage.

An occupational disease from an employer that obscured working conditions to save money.

Loneliness – not just that of being single, but of being single without family or friends because of something “off” in the personality.

A denomination shifting doctrine (or shifting back) and leaving some behind, unsure of  their place in God’s kingdom despite how hard they’ve served.

Being attuned to poverty in every direction and unable to stop it all.

Coming home from the battlefield and wanting to end it all because of the carnage witnessed and the brothers left behind.

A knot of emotion, manifesting physically in the stomach, that just will not stop screaming lies hour after hour, week after week, year after year no matter what medication is tried.

And to top it all off, a Christianity that tells them – truthfully – that God has no obligation to make it end.

I would not pretend that previous generations have lived and died on a flowery bed of ease, but this is something else. Millennials are the grandchildren of the sixties. Enough said. Compound familial brokenness upon itself down through enough generations and you get…well, what we’re looking at now. God did say it would get worse towards the end. Even if that doesn’t explain all the trials I mentioned, it does make them harder to undergo.

And instead of love, only judgment often comes – “why can’t they just snap out of it?” Things like the recently revealed college admission scandals don’t help. The character problems of some give the entire group a bad name. Some of our pain, to be sure, is on us.

It’s tough to impart spiritual truth to millennials. Did you know that words like “glory” or “salvation” will shut some millennials down almost instantly? They’re priceless words, but the only thing they see is stern, detached buzzwords from a previous generation who don’t get what they’re going through. No, that’s not fair. No, I’m not willing to leave those words behind. But it highlights the difficulty of revealing Jesus to this group. Most want nothing to do with a God of pain.

We’re not dumb. We’re not (all) entitled. We’re not (all) seeking a victim complex.

But the swells do keep coming, and we’re tired of getting rolled.

A speaker I once heard said, “I believe the healing God wants to do in this generation is emotional.” Perhaps hearts, not issues of blood or withered hands, are what Jesus will pursue this millennium.

And perhaps we can be part of it. Consider God’s infinite patience for any person, his ability to convert even Paul to the side of the kingdom. If we simply embrace, listen, forgive, and weep with those who weep. Those are the foundation to the trusses of deep spiritual truth.

A bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:3)

5 Encouragements for the Long Road to Finding “Your People”

Silhouette Friends Happy People SunsetIt took me a while to find “my people”.

Returning home after the Air Force, I found friendmaking difficult. I’m far from a natural.

First I tried the church’s college group. Never really fit in. Then I latched onto a Bible study of older singles. They were good people but had grown up with more money, and therefore with hobbies and pastimes I struggled to get into. Regardless of where I turned, I found myself on many D-lists.

And just when I was finally starting to feel at home, God called me away on a four-year mission. I still traveled back and forth, but building friendships in that situation is constrained.

Honestly, those were lonely and confusing years.

It’s part of life. I don’t hold grudges; not everyone will like you, or needs to. And honestly, there are people I’ve regrettably put on my D-list.

Eventually, God turned things around. At this point I’d say I have found “my people”.

I tell this story because I know other believers in the same boat, and I want them encouraged. It can be a long trail to finding “your people”, the ones God gives us to share the steep or muddy stretches with, beyond the randomness of a small group. Our band of brothers, our caravan, the human-shaped blessings who “get” us and are healthy for us.

You think you’ve found them (high school); you lose them (college); you have to find new ones (adulting). I didn’t start gaining altitude again until about age twenty-five, and even then, the climb was barely perceptible.

But God was in it. He never leaves our side.

A few thoughts if you’re in the valley now.

 

1. Forgive.

It does no good to hold grudges towards those who didn’t connect with you. It only cuts you off from both God and others. Most of the people who politely turn down your friendship mean no harm, intend no ill messages, and wish you the best. Wish them back.

 

2. Ignore the messages.

Isolation will lie to you. Satan is quite happy to exploit such seasons with messages that blind you to your identity in Christ, messages of worthlessness and self-doubt. Fight that poison tooth and nail. Get into Scripture and find the antidotes. You are God’s.

 

3. Don’t settle.

I am 1) an introvert and 2) picky when it comes to people. It’s hard to regret these qualities, because they drastically cut down on the drama quotient in your life. But they can make friend-finding a longer process.

But 2) is Scripturally mandated. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals'” (1 Cor. 15:33). “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). Like dating, the temptation to just go along with those who “get” you, even if they’re not wise companions, is real.

Don’t settle. The wait is worth it.

 

4. Enjoy those you do find.

Sometimes our squad sneaks up on us. I was sometimes so focused on one person or group that I didn’t immediately notice the one or two loyal, interesting, high-character types that God was picking off each cluster for me. This is great. Trust me. They’re now my best mates, even from states or countries away. Relish them to the fullest.

 

5. Don’t give up.

God sometimes sends us on roundabout journeys to even his purposes (and we know life certainly isn’t accommodating). Don’t give up. You have not been abandoned. You’re not hopeless. You’re not globally incompatible.

Keep hitting your knees in prayer. Good things are coming!

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Was Your Mind Made Up?

stormWe were expecting life to be pretty smooth.

High school graduation, maybe a college degree, maybe the family route instead, all falling into place in our twenties without that many bumps.

And when heartache started calling instead, when our plans for life folded like a cheap suit and God was nowhere to be seen, some of us just shrugged and walked away. “If God won’t be there for me, why should I be there for him?”

Maybe it wasn’t quite that total or explicit. We still love him…kinda. We believe…that he exists. We certainly get riled up on his behalf when some atheist starts talking.

But we’re not really on fire for him otherwise. Continue reading

35

cordAs occasions for celebration of recovery go, birthdays aren’t bad.

I used to have this subtle feeling that mentioning my birthday was akin to seeking attention. So I wouldn’t mention it. Then I realized that this was really just akin to worrying about what others would think of me.

So today, when a chance to glorify God through a birthday came up, I decided I would take it.

So there it is. I turn 35 on Thursday.

Is this, like, the part where where “no longer a kid” actually starts? Anyone? Bueller? Frye?

Anyway, it is the tendency of advancing increasing age to look forward and worry over the narrowing gap. Diminishing opportunities, declining vigor, regrets over goals not yet achieved, etc. I, in particular, am reminded today that my mission on earth – to lift up the name of Jesus to others – is not indefinite. I have a limited span to get this done. (Yes, I know, I’ve still got plenty of time. Though I did find out this summer that my knees are going to be requiring help from my leg muscles and will no longer hold out on their own.)

But this time I found myself looking to the past.

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The Many Shades of Singleness, Part 3: Hating Marriage

CALLEN_PHOTOS-21.jpgFor this particular shade of this series (here’s Part 1 and Part 2), I felt it best to turn to someone from the “never marry” side of the singles’ world, someone with a different story and perspective, who could speak credibly to those with a reluctant view of marriage and a, shall we say, greater enthusiasm for singleness.

To that end, I’m excited to introduce my blog’s very first guest poster, Sarah J. Callen. 

When Brandon first asked me to share about singleness, I began racking my brain for the best way to communicate about this topic. Then a simple solution hit me: share your story. I hope my story will leave you encouraged if you’ve been hurt in the past, give you compassion for those in a different stage of life than you, or just give courage to share your own, even if it’s messy.

Growing up, I never wanted to get married. The entire institution of marriage was wholly undesirable and having kids was completely out of the question. I met Christ when I was 16 and dove into church culture, but my hatred of marriage remained. I was certain I was just going to be like Paul and choose singleness so I could serve God, not realizing the depth of hurt I was trying to cover up using this Christian justification.

Some of my friends got married right out of high school and I had plenty of weddings to attend all through my college years and, while I was happy for them, I still didn’t understand their desire to marry. Why on earth would you want to put up with another human being for the rest of your life? Why would you sign up for something that had a high probability of leaving you in worse shape than when you entered it?

You see, at a young age I decided that marriage was a bad thing.

Continue reading