Tag Archives: depression

To Be Happy

Once again we have been reminded of the desperate need of the human heart to be happy.  The death of Robin Williams is a particularly tragic event in our culture.  There have been many others who have ended their own lives because of depression, addiction, or pain; but Williams was a man who seemed so widely accepted and loved.  For forty years he made us laugh.

By now we should understand that there are those who seek to find their own happiness in the happiness of others.  The comics among us have so often been tragic characters.  Perhaps they think that if they can make us laugh, they will find joy for themselves.  I won’t pretend to know Robin Williams or understand his demons, but I know that seeking health by making others laugh is a losing proposition.

I write about some negative things, particularly narcissism and legalism.  Both are attempts to find personal health by controlling or manipulating the feelings of others.  Both fail to satisfy the needs of the heart.  The narcissist, like the comic, can make those around him laugh, and the legalist can give sacrificially; but neither will find joy or freedom or peace from their efforts.  The darkness within is not overcome by their gifts.

There is a need for us to be accepted and loved for who we are, rather than for what we do.  There is nothing we can do or produce to fill this need.  That love and acceptance must come from the free choice of another, someone who knows the truth of our hearts and still chooses to love us.  Many have found that the love of the people around them, no matter how sincere, is still not enough.  I believe there is a core need for the love of God in our hearts.

It is a particular offense to the gospel of Jesus Christ to make it about sin and wrath and measuring up.  The real message of the gospel is exactly what the human heart needs—love.  Instead of telling people that they have sinned and must find the way to being accepted, we must tell them that they have sinned and God loves them.  We do not bring a message of rejection!  The gospel is a message of love and acceptance.

You have sinned and God loves you.  You cannot save yourself, but God—in Jesus—will save you.  You are broken and hurting and Jesus offers health and peace.  The darkness pulls you to addictions and despair; Jesus calls you to eternal love and freedom.

In your own dark days, remember the love of One who truly knows you.  He knows your doubts and fears and compromises and He finds great joy in knowing you.  No matter how bleak or depressing your life becomes, you can never fall further than His arms of love.

When a friend or family member is going through the dark days, love them and tell them of this greater love.  Tell them that Jesus loves them.  Whatever they have done, whatever thoughts have gone through their mind and heart, Jesus loves them.  He is quick to forgive, powerful enough to heal, and steadfast in His love.

The message of grace is that love is already there for you.  You don’t have to earn it or deserve it or even seek it.  The tiniest glimmer of faith is enough to begin welcoming and receiving that amazing love.  Just the desire, the willingness to take what is offered, is enough—and that’s already in you.  That longing finds its fulfillment in Jesus, the love of God.

The lie says that if you can make enough others happy, you will find happiness.  Parents look to find their happiness in the happiness of their children.  Givers look to the happiness of those who receive.  Workers look to those who are served.  And then there are those who take a broken route, the narcissists who manipulate the feelings of others to create their own peace or the legalists who seem to seek to destroy the happiness of others to make themselves feel better about their brokenness.  But it doesn’t work.  None of it works.  We cannot take our happiness from others.

My prayer for all of us is that we would no longer seek to find our happiness in the looks or lives of those around us; but that we would find our joy in Jesus.  May that always be the place and beginning of our health.

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The Dilemma

Grace 101

One of the simplest reasons it is difficult for people to lose weight is because you have to eat.  You don’t have to smoke, in order to survive.  You don’t have to drink or do drugs to survive.  Yes, I know it feels like it when you are quitting these things, but the point is that you can quit them.  You can’t quit eating.  So we have to learn to do other things: eat less, eat smarter, use up more calories, etc.  We all know the drill.  But you still have to eat.

It causes great stress when we are expected to stop doing something we must do.  Or, we can state the opposite as well: It causes great stress when we are expected to do something we can’t do.

Adam and Eve, their children, and the generations that followed were somehow expected to survive an existence where they were drawn to the Lord by the need in their hearts, but unable to reach Him and reconnect with Him.  They had lost their communion, their unity, with Him and had no way to restore it.  No matter how much they wanted to return to the Lord, they couldn’t.  The one thing that could connect them with the heart of God, His life in them, was gone.  That’s why He told them they would die.

There were certainly people who knew and loved God before the cross.  I think Adam and Eve remained close to God and He cared for them.  We know that He interacted with their family.  But it wasn’t the same.  The life was gone.  The relationship was so much less than it was in the Garden.

In the Garden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God.  I expect that they laughed with Him and each other.  Their life was so much better than anything we can imagine.  But the only example we have in Scripture of anyone else enjoying that kind of relationship with God was Jesus.  We see glimpses of it as He walked in the garden with the Father.  His times of prayer were true communion with the Father.  No one else had that.  There were hints.  Enoch walked with God.  Moses talked with God.  Abraham and David and Isaiah had special relationships with God.  But always from a distance.  Always less than what was.

But the need was there.  Humans were made to live in communion with God.  Nothing would be right until that was restored.  The tension and sadness in the heart allowed sin to compound.  Separation grew to hate.  Hate grew to murder.  Murder grew to war.  Loss led to grief.  Grief led to depression.  Depression led to self-destruction.  Trying to satisfy the longing, the emptiness, either became the ambition or the destruction of humanity.  Human history, human religion, human art—all reveal the effect of this inherent suffering.

From the beginning, God had a plan of restoration.  Yet, He knew that humans would develop their own plan as well.  The two plans grew until a day of choice would come again.

 

Grace 101 is a simple attempt to explain what has happened to us and what God has done for us.  So much of what we have learned has been confused by sectarian doctrines and theological jargon.  It is sometimes difficult to see the message the Lord wants us to understand as we read the Bible or worship together.  The series of posts will be found in the category called Grace 101 and begins here.  Enjoy!

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What I know about you. . .

. . . you are hope-full!

 

Depression is many things.  We know today that depression can be a chemical imbalance.  We know that depression can be seasonal.  Some say that depression is anger, others say sadness, still others say loneliness.  I suspect many people feel all of these at the same time and much more.  But I think a common thread runs through depression, no matter how it is caused.  Depression is a loss of hope.

Where do you go when hope is gone?  What do you do?  Try harder?  Work smarter or faster?  When your car is stuck in the snow bank, does it help to spin the tires faster?  No, when hope is gone, giving up seems reasonable.  Depression, for some people, is that closed loop between the logical decision to give up and the heart desire for something to be different.

I have believed for years that there is a strong correlation in our hearts between hope and help.  In fact, the Greek word for hope sounds like help.  The Scriptures use help to communicate assistance or comfort or relief.  But help isn’t what we need when we are discouraged.  In those times when we look ahead and see no change, no progress, despair comes easily—not because we have no help, but because we know that more help won’t help.  We need hope.

We need something outside ourselves.  When trying harder doesn’t do it and we have tried all the ways we know or care to try, there just isn’t any more we can draw out of ourselves.  The legalist comes along and tells us to stop being sad or angry, to put a smile on our faces and push forward, but we have done all that and it didn’t help.  The old line, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me,” is a lie.  We think, “If it’s up to me, it isn’t going to be.”

And we need a person.  More and better rules or methods aren’t the answer.  An idol of rock or wood won’t be enough.  Another book to read, another class to attend, another trick to try—these things aren’t what we need.  They all tell us to draw more from ourselves and we are tired.  Drugs may help to soften the pain and exercise may cause new blood to flow in our veins, but what do we do when there just isn’t any more, when we have given all we have to the cause?

And we need a person bigger than the people we know.  As long as our helper is “just like me” we have little hope.  Certainly others can encourage and love, but the hope we need is more than they can provide.  We need someone bigger than this world, someone who is stronger than the problems of life.  Fellow sufferers are important, but they don’t give us hope.

There is a Person who loves you, Someone who is bigger than your problems, bigger than the world.  He has come to you in Jesus.  Jesus is the Lord God Almighty in human flesh.  Somehow, by a great mystery, God came into our world TO BE OUR HOPE!

And you and I have hope.  There is no problem that can overcome us, because we look to Him.  There is no situation that can move us to despair, because He is there and He is real.  And He has promised that those who come to Him through Jesus will find life and freedom and love forever.

One of the verses of Amazing Grace we often skip over is so important for us.

The Lord has promised good to me…

His word my hope secures.

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.

 

David certainly understood this.  He struggled with his feelings.  I think he suffered from depression.  Like us, he forgot from time to time that God was with him and loved him.  He began to look at the opposition he faced or the troubles he suffered and his own weakness.  When he did that, he began to despair.  But God lovingly and patiently drew David back and so many of the Psalms end with praises to the Lord.  God was David’s hope.

 

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

 When we struggle, the Lord is our hope.  When the world seems to be too much, there is One who is bigger.  When we can draw nothing more from ourselves, He is there with plenty.

But listen: if you know someone who is struggling, be sure to remind them in love of the One who loves them.  Don’t tell them to have more faith or to buck it up because of Jesus.  Tell them they are loved and there is One who is greater than their problems.

There is hope in the Lord.  The day of peace will come.  The future is good.  The results of your project are in His hands.  He loves your children more than you do.  There is no failure for those who walk with Him.  There is no sin that can separate you from Him.

Those who belong to Jesus are full of hope, even when they forget.

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Mental Illness and Sin?

Let’s take one more about suffering and sin for this week.  Here’s a particularly cruel one that is popular in some legalist circles: Mental illness is the result of sin.

One group of which I was a part taught that depression came from sin.  Counselors were told that they should look for “root causes” and current activities that might be responsible for the depression.  Things like schizophrenia, autism, borderline, and even physical struggles like fibromyalgia were said to be “sin problems.”  Not only was this incorrect, it was just plain mean.

Now I want to be careful here.  Sin does cause problems.  The inconsistency of sin in the life of the believer and the related distress can cause all kinds of mental, emotional, and physical problems.  It is not at all inappropriate for a counselor or friend to ask if there is any sin issue that should be discussed.

But it is just wrong to suggest that the only cause of these problems is sin.  We know that chemical imbalances, brain injuries, genetic factors, and other things can affect us in these ways.  While I have many reservations about current depression medications, I also know people who have been greatly helped by using them.  There are times when a person needs something more than just a good word.

Honestly, we don’t know what the chemicals in our diet, in the air, and in the water are doing to us.  We don’t know how the unusual stresses of our day will affect us.  The loss of the extended family and of the close supportive community, the regret that usually follows the world’s solutions to our personal problems, the bombardment of fast moving images and ideas from the television or the internet—these things are new to our culture and certainly have some effect.

I suppose you could call these societal sins, but I don’t think I would necessarily agree.  They are simply life as we know it, the result of discoveries in technology.  We may have cause to regret the powerlines, the fracking, the additives, the immunizations, etc. in the future, but using them isn’t sin.

When we add guilt to pain by telling the depressed person that he or she must be sinning, we are being unkind.  I remember someone saying that Job’s friends were great friends until they opened their mouths.  According to Job 2:13, they sat with him for an entire week just as supportive friends.  Then they ruined it all by bringing their perspectives on his trouble.  They said it must be sin.  That was the only answer they had.  No matter how much Job protested, they stuck to their theories.  We are not left with the impression that Job was comforted by them.

And sin was not the cause of Job’s suffering.  He was wrong to rail against God or accuse God of being unfair, but it is clear that the trouble was not the result of Job’s sin.

Please – let’s remember that the troubles of this world sometimes just happen.  We can be so much help when we love and care.  We can be so hurtful when we accuse the sufferer or the Lord of responsibility for the pain.

Your thoughts?

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Who ya gonna go to when you got the blues?

Depression comes in many forms and from many sources.  If you have ever been seriously depressed, you know that it is debilitating and confusing.  At first you might want to cry; but, after a while, you just don’t care anymore.  Even the guilt you feel for not caring seems to just be added to the pile.  Those who are clinically depressed often report that they feel nothing.

Now, I believe that there are physical reasons for some depression and I certainly don’t want to add my support to the “all depression has a spiritual cause” crowd.  But most of the depression I have seen among believers seems to be there because they feel cut off from their life source.  Jesus is our Life, but what do we do when we are separated from Him?

What if God appears to be the source of your problem?  The legalist message presents a God who is angry, disappointed, pushy, and unloving.  Because we always fall short of His desires, He is constantly displeased with us.  At least that’s what the message says.  We hear from the pulpit that we should try harder, that God expects perfection from us.  Try harder, work more, never slack off.  God knows you are a failure and He is always disappointed in your efforts.  That’s what many people hear every Sunday.

Is that your God?  Let me tell you what happens with this kind of thinking.  Not only does it lead to depression, but it takes away the only real help you and I have when we begin to get depressed.  If we can’t go to the Lord, where do we go?

Financial struggles?

God expects perfection, but the kids got no shoes
Who ya gonna go to when you got the blues?

 

Relationship problems?

God expects perfection, but mama’s got a bruise
Who ya gonna go to when you got the blues?

 

Tired?

God expects perfection, but you need a snooze
Who ya gonna go to when you got the blues?
 

Tempted?

God expects perfection, maybe find some booze
Who ya gonna go to when you got the blues?

 

Afraid?

God expects perfection, you got so much to lose
Who ya gonna go to when you got the blues?

 

Feel like a failure?

God expects perfection, but your son’s on the news
Who ya gonna go to when you got the blues?

 

Envious?

God expects perfection, and your sister’s on a cruise
Who ya gonna go to when you got the blues?

 

Overwhelmed?

God expects perfection, and you got all these do’s
Who ya gonna go to when you got the blues?

 

You get the picture?  If God is distant, where can you go? 

Listen—God is not distant.  He loves you.  He isn’t disappointed with you.  He knew all about you, what you can do and what you can’t, before He called you to Himself. 

Perfection?  God doesn’t expect you to make yourself perfect.  He doesn’t expect you to live a perfect Christian life.  Instead, He gives you perfection.  He gives you what you need to be spiritually acceptable in His perfect kingdom.  The perfection He gives is the perfection of Christ.  It’s a gift to you, because He loves you.  Your own imperfection is an understood part of the deal. 

Go to Him.  Don’t be afraid.  He will not push you away.  He is not ashamed of you, no matter what you have or haven’t done.  Tell Him what you are thinking and feeling.  He has heard it all before and He cares. 

The liar wants you to be disconnected from the One who loves you.  He tells you a lie to keep you away from the Love.  Don’t listen.  Trust the One who went to the cross for you.  He came for you because you couldn’t come to Him on your own. 

Jesus loves you.  It’s true!

 

(Comments?  Maybe you can add some stanzas!)

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Filed under grace, heart, Legalism, Relationship, Uncategorized