Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Humble Confidence

It seems that many times when people are racked with depression one of the first things secular (and unfortunately sometimes Christian) counselors talk about is the need for “self confidence”. Although I would agree that we need to understand our “self” much better (see the “comments section” of my last post) it does not happen by mainly focusing on “self”.

One of the other aspects of this though is that many people who struggle with depression feel like they are perpetually throwing their head against the wall because they want to know their life is worth something. They want to know they are worth something (these are not just thoughts of people with depression, but all humanity). Yet, many people keep thinking like they must always feel like I piece of trash and then maybe God will “look on my lowly state”, which will lead to joy. The problem is that if people really believe this is true Christianity several outcomes occur:

1. The second God “helps them up” they throw themselves back on the ground in order to profess how big of a punk they are and then maybe God will pick them up which leads to throwing themselves back on the ground. Thus, “the mentality of groveling in the dirt is the disposition of Christians, therefore, I want nothing to do with that junk.”

2. People start to think they are supposed to be “confident” that they are a walking piece of trash. Some how this will lead to a godly and joyful life.

3. A person who always thinks they are a piece of trash really believes God is a piece of trash. I know this sounds harsh, so let me explain. Every person is created in the image of God (believer and unbeliever). If you are made in His image, yet you always think you are the worst thing walking on the face of the Earth, you are really saying that God’s “masterpiece” is woefully inadequate and thus, why even want relationship with Someone like this.

So what is the solution? A Humble Confidence.

Christians should be the most confident people in the world. One of the problems is that many people equate confidence with arrogance. A better correlation would be to see confidence and humility as siblings and arrogance/pride and insecurity as siblings.

I was blown away this morning when reading Hebrews 10. The author uses past victories in persevering during terrible times (v. 32-34) as an encouragement to not lose present confidence. Someone may say, “Well I do not think I have any victories? This is making me even more depressed! Thanks a ton, you punk!” I would respond by saying, “Start today! Your victories today will help you to persevere in the future! This is the point. Perseverance in terrible times has a snow ball effect and so does giving up.”

In fact, the author uses confidence as the basis for endurance (v. 35-36). Without confidence you will not endure. You might for a mere 20, 30, 40 years, but you will not do it for a life span.

The author goes on to give the reason for “enduring confidence”. He says BECAUSE “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and persevere.” What he says is so profound! The reason is BECAUSE THAT IS WHO YOU ARE! You are not becoming someone that you are not. The point is to become who you already are!

I try to live my life under one theme and two principles.

“As you go, live unto life.” (Theme)

This is derived from the language of The Great Commission in Mt. 28. The etymology gives the idea of “as you go” more than “go”. The point is that wherever you are, make disciples!

Do nothing more or nothing less than what God wants you to do (Principle 1)

This causes me to always focus on pursuing a holy life. It also helps to guard me against Paul’s greatest struggle, covetousness. It is so easy to see what other people are doing and want to either have their position, their things, etc. (at least it is for me), instead of being content in how God has made me and what He wants me to do. This also allows me to focus on encouraging others, more than trying to take from others.

Become who you are (Principle 2)

For Christians, you already are totally righteous and pure in the eyes of the Father. Therefore, living a holy life is not a matter of trying to earn acceptance, but understanding that I am already accepted by the One who can completely satisfy me, which should lead to a life of thanksgiving instead of trying to earn favor.

This mentality has helped me out so much with my bouts of depression. This has not totally eradicated depression in my life, but it has helped me to seek after proper confidence. Proper confidence is found by “dying to self” for the purpose of having God tell us who we are in Him. This will give us a focus that will not only be holy, but confident and joyful (for the record, I believe you can be joyful and depressed at the same time. I will talk about this more in my next post).

I pray these posts have been helpful in some ways. I first desire for people to know that God is still great, even in the midst of depression. He is a loving Father who wants to let us know that we are TRULY NEVER ALONE. The issue with depression is that it is a lie. I am not saying it is fake, it is very real. God just wants us to know the truth of the matter is that we are never alone and that we are valuable in Him. I also want people to be delivered from depression, but again, this is not the main goal. Relationship with an eternal God is the main goal. Therefore, our thoughts should be focused on who He is and how He thinks which will help to properly inform our lives.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Enough? (Pt. 3 on Depression)

I have posted a comment that I received from my post on "Depression Pt. 1" and some thoughts to this comment. Please feel free to jump in with some thoughts. Whoever this "anonymous" comment is from, I want you to know that I have greatly appreciated your challenging words. I hope this is the beginning to some answers for both of us.

I doubt that this is enough. I doubt that your god is enough. I say this not to be arrogant or disrespectful to you and your god, but because your god used to be my god. And it didn't help. That focus didn't make it better. It actually made it worse. Because I reached out to the word and to the people who supposedly believed the word and there was a big nothingness that met me.

I think Amber may have been right in what she said...that "the fear that the one with depression will be thinking this often keeps those of us who have not had a lot of dealings with depression from speaking truth to those who are in the midst of the toughest times." It leaves those believers struggling with depression feeling truly "silent and separated."

I'm just saying that I think maybe your approach works for some people but not for others. As a former "believer" who had a serious bout with depression that led nowhere good, I can say it wasn't enough for me. I actually learned from that experience to rely not on god or his people but to rely on myself and my mind.

So what would you say to someone like me who says "it's not enough"???

I want to start by saying that I do not have all of the answers, but I am very interested in dialoguing on this so that we can both learn. I am going to put things in numerical points. Some will be suggestions, some questions, etc. These are not in order of importance.

1. I am very glad that you have been so raw and honest. I must say (even thought many times I wish I could not identify with this) that I have had severe doubts and desires to give up. Some of the times of giving up were before I was a Christian and some were after. I remember a time when I almost blew my head off (I was about 17), but a friend called me out of nowhere. This instance was prior to me becoming a Christian, but I know that suicidal tendencies are very common in Christianity also. Thoughts of suicide had always given me some form of relief because I think I had resolved that things would be over very soon. I am incredibly glad I did not follow through, even though some of the most intense bouts of depression were yet to come.

I say this only for the purpose of giving you more of my background and also to hopefully give some framework to some of the things I am going to say. It is hard to express tone in this format, but please take these comments in a sympathetic and concerned tone.

2.You said that you “reached out to the word” and other professing believers, but you found “a big nothingness”. I want to say a few things on this point.

• First of all, I am very sorry that you did not have a sense of any community. I am not sure who you are, but if I was one of these people, I am sorry. I failed you.

• Next, many times I felt like the Word had failed me and I think it came from some misconceptions. You may have some of these (or not) so I am just trying to give you some possibilities to think through. For so long I would use the Word as an end, instead of a means. I made the same mistake of the Jews that Jesus talked about in John 5:39-40. I thought that life was found in the Scripture, instead of Scripture leading me to Him (I still make this mistake sometimes, but I am getting better). This led to a lot of time where I would memorize Scripture and then start “quoting it into the air” and expect some form of relief. The problem is that I was not using the promises of God to lead me to personal relationship with God (2 Pet. 1:3-5). The promises of God are used to lead us, convince us, rebuke us, and encourage us in the Person of God. Therefore, the roots of depression (being alone, desperation, confusion, etc.) are dug up because we realize that not only are we not alone, but He is perfect and has conquered the exact problem I am struggling with. One of the issues is that it takes perseverance. To give up is not the answer, yet it is not easy. I can also say that even though it may not be easy, it is worth it! It could very well be that the depression does not lift in this life time (many times have this), but this is what should lead us to what I said concerning Ps. 42 in my previous post.

• Another misconception I had was to do what I said in my post. I would magnify my situation to a degree that I believed nobody else could understand me and therefore the depression would greatly intensify. The problem is that another persons ability to identify with my situation still does not bring proper relief. It may be good enough for a short time, but never for long term sustainability (long term meaning more than just my temporal current life on Earth). I think the idea of giving up on people who hurt me brought a false peace that I wanted to correlate with Christianity and Christians as being "kill joys" etc. I believe this false sense of peace also came so the enemy could isolate me off more in order to replace this "sense of peace" with bitterness, hurt, pain, etc.

One suggestion would be to meditate on Heb. 12:1. The freedom of being surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses is the reality that “The Church” is made up some incredible people of the past. You can read how they dealt with depressive states and know they are actively involved in the current situations of “The Church”. A couple of book suggestions would be Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones and When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper. These have helped me so much.

• The third misconception that I had in this situation of the failure of the Word and people (and I think you do also) is that I truly believed it. The problem is that it is a lie. We always have an object/Object to which we think is sufficient to satisfy us. You have chosen yourself. I really ask you to reconsider. One of the “freeing” things of battling with depression is knowing that I am not a good object to “bank all of my chips on.” I have got issues (just like everyone else) but this can (and should) free us to search for an all sufficient and perfect answer. This is not just some theoretical (although nothing less than theory) jargon that is alright to talk about, but not good enough to live.

One suggestion is to look at and meditate on Heb. 2:14-18. I have also needed to meditate on the words of Job. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” This is definitely one Scripture that I have doubted often, but I still try to preach this true reality to my soul.

3.On a “change of direction” note. I would say that your situation is very real. This may be a “no joke” comment, but that is not how I mean it. What I mean is that it is important to come to grips with your situation, yet this is not the ultimate end. I think that many times people are scared of finally finding an answer. The reasons can be many fold, but some of the things I have thought through on a personal note are as follows:

• I am used to the feelings of depression and even though I do not like them, I am familiar with them. This familiarity can sometimes give a strange comfort when there seems to be so much more uncertainty (I know this may be strange and you may not have ever felt this way).

• I may actually end up different. As much as I want to be relieved of depression the thoughts of, “How will this be manifested? If the feelings of depression are so intense will I end up looking like a nut case because my feelings would also be intense, but in a joyful way?” These statements may also not be your struggle, but it would be could to examine yourself.

4. Here are some questions I have (again, I do not mean these questions in a trite way. I really want to know).:

• If you have resolved to find the answers in your mind and yourself, how has this journey been?
• How did focusing on God make your situation worse?
• Doesn’t finding answers in yourself and your mind leave you in a lonely (i.e. depressive state) because you have isolated yourself to find answers in yourself?

I have by no means covered everything, but the post seems to be quite long already and it may be good to dialogue things out from here as a starting point. Please know this, I want you to truly know the unconditional love of God in an incredible way. I have prayed for you and I will continue. I have been thanking the Lord for your challenges to me because it forces me to articulate my thoughts and I will hopefully learn a ton from the dialogue.

If anyone else has thoughts do not feel shy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Great Thoughts from Louie Giglio (Depression pt. 2)

I have posted a sermon by Louie Giglio below. It is broken up in 10 min. segments. It is very much worth your time.

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The god called Situation (Depression Series Pt. 1)

One of the attacks from depression is rooted many times in the magnification of our situations. A certain feeling of despair comes on (sometimes for no apparent reason) and then each situation either helps to magnify the problem or sometimes relieve the depression. What this causes many times for people who struggle with depression is the mentality of "Well, if this one situation could change, everything would be better." Other times people default to recreation or a vacation as being the preeminent way to silence the screams of depression. These things are not necessarily bad, but the problem comes when a person uses these ways as the #1 way to get rid of depression. This leads many people to cowering away in times of difficulty and they constantly look at a "change of scenery" as being the ultimate answer.

After reading the chapter titled “God Unchanging” in J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, it was such a great insight to rest in the great consistency of God. Packer says that many people look at the situations of the Bible and see a disconnect between their situations and the issues of the modern day. Therefore, many people read the Bible as “distant literature”.

The sense of remoteness is an illusion which springs from seeking the link between our situation and that of the various Bible characters in the wrong place…But the link between them and us is not found at that level. The link is God himself.”

The reality of God’s consistency in all times is meant to free us from being bound to a perceived hopelessness in a current situation. For instance, look at the person who has terrible abuses happen to them and bitterness sets in their mind. Depressive bouts start to overwhelm them and life seems unbearable. Many times the next words that come out are, “But nobody understands my situation! Nobody has been through the same thing as me.” Although this statement is true (because each person has a unique personal history) the stress of the situation would not be properly relieved even if someone had the same story as the hurt person. This type of mentality makes a god out of a situation. What I mean by this is that the person above believes the uniqueness of their situation negates any possibility of someone/Someone helping. This leads to despair and (in many cases) perpetual depression. The reason for so much of the despair in this situation is because the focus was wrong from the beginning.

When relationship with God is seen as the ultimate pursuit of man (even in the face of indescribable depression...which I have unfortunately been acquainted with) the answer to success in life helps us to properly inform our depressive state. What I mean by this is each Christian has the power to preach to their soul. Just like the psalmist asks his soul why it is so downcast and then TELLS himself to hope in God (Ps. 42:11). Why does he say this? It is because the TRUE REALITY of the situation is that God has provided hope in every situation. Therefore, it is not cruel to say this to yourself nor should it sound trite. The reason is because HE HAS provided hope!! This is some of the sweet truth of Rom. 5:1-5. God gives us hope in every situation because hope is not rooted in any situation, but HIM!! This is some of the great provision of our all loving God. He cares for us more than our mind could ever comprehend.

I pray that we would be people who see His consistent provision in all circumstances. I pray that we will persevere in preaching to our soul. I pray that God will cause us to know in deeper ways that His provision of relationship has freed us from the god called Situation.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Introduction to a blog series on Depression

I have decided to write a blog series on depression. I am going to share a lot of my personal struggle with depressive bouts for several reasons.

1. In order to hopefully start a dialogue with others who may struggle in this area (or if you know someone who struggles with depression also).

2. To share some of the things I have learned from success and failure during my depressive states.

3. Hopefully to encourage others to never give up, no matter the difficulty.

4. For a Christian, God has given us EVERYTHING we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge of Him (2 Pet. 1:3-4). This does not mean I am against medication for people sometimes (it would be equivalent to telling a person who had a heart disease to not take something), but I do believe we live in an over medicated society that tries to find the comfort in medicine as an "end" instead of a "means". I do not personally take medication, but I just wanted to put out my stance from the very beginning.

5. Even if the clouds of depression never lift in this life, He is still worth it. I know this is tougher to live out, but I know this is the case.

I state these five things in order to give some type of frame work. On a personal level, I have struggled with depressive bouts since I was a kid. I have experienced two separate bouts of approx. 17 months a piece that it felt like "the sun would not rise. I was speaking and leading during these times, all the while feeling like the storm would never subside. I do not say these things in order to bring personal glory, but more as statements so you will know my past.

Some of you have experiences worse. Someone of you have never experienced this struggle. Either way, it is not the point of this series to "one up" one another. The point is to hopefully learn how to find God centered hope in depression and learn how to help others that have this struggle.

I have come to understand that depression is a call to worship. What the enemy intends for our destruction, is actually a way that we can worship and become filled with joy in God. This is not cruel of God, but in fact is a way to show us and the enemy that God is all sufficient in all circumstances. I pray this series will be beneficial to many and that the love of God is magnified.

Love Truth