Over the last several months there have been some constants in my life. Amidst all the upheaval and emotional turmoil and uncertainty, there have been three things that have been always there. Those things are depression, discouragement and the love of God.
Now I know that sounds strange. It’s a little weird at first glance that I would put those three things together in the same sentence, in the same breath. So let me explain a little if I can. Almost every day for the last 8 or so months, I have fought depression and discouragement. Most days I don’t even want to get out of bed because I dread another day of this battle.
Even guys like me get tired of the battle.
I don’t say that to sound like I’m cool or some kind of badass or something. I say that simply because I am not a quitter. I hate quitters. I would rather die than quit. But there have been many days recently, for the first time in my life, that I have said out loud to God, “I give up.”
I never thought I’d see the day when I cried ‘uncle.’
Every day the battle with depression and discouragement rages in my heart and mind. Every hour of every day it is a reality that I cannot ignore and I know my family sees. And I refuse to hide the pain from my wife and children. I mean, sometimes I try to act like a tough guy but my wife sees right through that. But she’s also super gracious and so kind and lets me go when I say that nothing is wrong. She knows that’s not true but she’s gentle in her pushback, and that’s a good thing. See, I don’t think I could handle too much “tough love” right now. I don’t think telling me to suck it up is going to do any good. I know this cause I keep saying it to myself and it’s not really helping much.
And then I take up the Bible and read. Here I find some comfort.
Here’s what I mean. Almost every single person that followed God, according to the Bible, had seasons of depression, discouragement, despair and pain. In fact, the constant witness of the Bible is that, if you are sold out to God, you are going to have problems in this life. The great prophets of the Old Testament cried out to God in their discouragement and pain. Elijah even went so far as to long for his own death. Job sat in the ashes of his life and wept, seeking answers. David cried out to God over and over again in the Psalms. Moses asked God to take the burden of leadership from him. And the list goes on….
And this brings me comfort. I am warmed by the fire of the testimony of the cries of those who followed God faithfully and paid the price for their passion. And with all their cries and tears, with all my cries and tears and despair and depression and discouragement, there has been another constant.
Jesus, the lover of my soul, my elder brother, my Lord and Saviour has been with me at all times. It hasn’t always felt that way. I’ve cried out to Him and still do every day to take this from me. But He hasn’t. Maybe He will and maybe He won’t. The Apostle Paul cried out to God that He would take from him a “thorn in the flesh.” But God’s response was not to take it away and give Paul a life of ease. No, He said what Paul probably didn’t want to hear and what I certainly don’t want to hear.
“My grace is sufficient.”
“I am enough.”
This is the constant testimony of those who cried out to God in Scripture. He showed them who He was. I find it compelling and instructive that God almost never answered any of the ‘whys’ of His servants. Rather than give them a reason, He simply showed them who He was. Jesus did the same thing when John the Baptist questioned. John sent his disciples to ask “Are you the One?” Jesus could have just said yes. But He didn’t. He said, “Go back and tell John what you have seen.” Go back, Jesus said, and tell John who I am.
Maybe you’re like me right now. Maybe you’re going through something that has you anxious or depressed or discouraged or whatever. May I offer three things that have helped me?
There have been so many days, moments when I haven’t known what to say to God and frankly haven’t even wanted to talk to Him. What has helped me has been the Book of Common Prayer. Every day, I pray the Daily Office. What I have found in this is that my prayer time has become more focused on who God is and less focused on what I want.
And that is a very good thing.
2. Bible reading
Most days I don’t feel like reading the Bible. I force myself to do it most times. Again, the Daily Office has been helpful for me here. I don’t have to wonder what I’m going to read or pick what I want to read, I simply follow the lectionary readings. I have been often amazed at how precisely appropriate the text was for me that very day.
Even when we don’t want to hear from God, we need to. In fact, I might even say that is the time you need to hear from Him most: when you don’t want to. Read His Word. Let Him speak to you in His Word. It will form you and mold and shape your heart over time and you may not even realize it.
That is also a very good thing.
3. Corporate worship
This may sound odd to you but I cannot overemphasize the importance of the corporate worship gathering of God’s people for you during a time of hardship. For me, the constant proclamation of God’s Word, praying together, singing together, kneeling and rising and affirming our faith in the Creeds of the Church have been weekly balm for an aching heart. But the thing about gathering with the Church that has been the most profound for me has been the Eucharist. The real presence of Jesus at the Table with His people has been of unspeakable comfort to me. Knowing the He is with us, with me when I come to His Table has been profoundly shaping and moving for me.
The gift of Jesus’ presence at the Eucharistic Table is a very very good thing.
I know this has been long so I’ll wrap it up. I want you to know if you’re going through a hard time that you are not alone. Jesus is with you. His Church is with you. Cry out to Him in prayer, seek Him in His Word and come humbly to His Table and you will find rest for your soul!
Soli Deo Gloria!
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Jesus, the Christ
Something happened last night that I want to tell you about. Since things fell apart with our re-plant here, I’ve been looking for a job. One of the things I’ve done in the meantime is drive for Uber. While it’s not perfect, it’s flexible and, in a busy city like Nashville, one can actually make decent money doing it. So I drive people around at night.
Last night, my last trip for the night, I picked up a young man from a “party barge” here in Nashville. When I pulled up, his friends had to help him stand up. Typically, I have a strict rule that people who can’t stand under their own power because of intoxication can’t get in my car. I don’t want them puking in my car.
Be that as it may, last night I let it ride. He was a young man. I don’t know how old he was but he was young. His friends said, “Thank you for taking care of him,” loaded him in my back seat and off they went. I tried to engage him in conversation but he was do drunk he could barely speak.
And, for a few minutes, I had some not very nice things to say about that young man in my own head.
As I was turning into his neighborhood, he passed out. I heard the thump of him landing partially in the back floorboard. I stopped the car, pulled him into an upright position (glad I work out so I was strong enough to do that without throwing my back out!) and asked him if he was okay. He mumbled something and leaned against the window. When I got to his house, I had to physically help him walk, almost carrying him. We got to his front door and somehow he managed to type in the code on his lock and open the door. He leaned against the wall and slurred out, “Thank you so much,” and hugged me. When I stepped back, I looked into his eyes and there it was. Through the drunken stupor, I could see it.
I walked back to my car and prayed for that young man, that the Spirit would bring him to new life, that he would hear the good news about Jesus and repent and believe. And I’ve been thinking about all this all night last night and today. I don’t remember that young man’s name but I hope I meet him again someday. I want to ask his forgiveness for my condemnation of him.
Let me be clear. I am no different than him. Neither are you.
The truth is that we are all trying to drown our pain, our uncertainties, our fears. It might not be in booze but we’re all medicating ourselves with something. My medication isn’t booze. Right now, my medication is anger and sadness and self-loathing.
What’s yours? What is it that you are hiding, what pain are you carrying, what frustration keeps you up at night? And what are you using to “medicate” it away? Is it sex, money, your job, your spouse, your kids, porn? What is it?
I love Jesus. There are so many things I love about Him but the thing I think I love about Him the most is that He is gentle. Not one single person who came before Jesus as a sinner (and they were all sinners), admitting their own need did He turn away. He wasn’t harsh or unkind to the sick and wounded and desperate and heartbroken.
No, He was kind and gentle and loving.
You don’t have to have your shit together before you come to Jesus. In fact, please don’t. Because if you’ve got things figured out and you’re all good before you come to Jesus, then it’s not Jesus you’re looking to for salvation; it’s you.
Oh, that we would all recognize that we are no different than that young man last night. We are all drowning our pain and problems in something other than what will actually help us. Jesus is looking at us saying, “Aren’t you tired? Haven’t you gotten tired of trying to fix it all by yourself? You can’t fix it. Just come to Me. Rest in Me. Rest.”
Jesus never promised that He would “fix” all your problems. In fact, He still hasn’t fixed my perceived problem. See, I think my problem is that I was wronged and now I need to make it go away and I need a good paying job and I need…..fill in your own blank.
Jesus didn’t say He was going to fix all that. What He promises us is that, if we will come to Him, we will find rest for our weary souls. You need rest. I need rest. Everyone needs rest. And one day, Jesus will return and we will know an eternal kind of rest that we can only now imagine.
Our souls cry out for rest.
That rest can only be found in Jesus. He is the Christ and He offers Himself to us. What grace, what marvelous, astounding, staggering grace!
Come, friends. Come to Jesus and find rest.
Soli Deo Gloria!