Tag Archive | depression

2016 Reflections

As I sit here on NYE awaiting the arrival of the new year, I realize that much like this year’s presidential election, I may not be exactly “for” 2017 so much as I’m “anti” 2016.  My word, it’s been a rough one in just about every way, shape and form.  The media has focused upon the numerous deaths of celebrities; I admit, it’s been easy as a child of the 80’s to get caught up in the “what the heck?!” feeling that for some reason, 2016 set out to attack my teenage memories.

Celebrities weren’t the only ones who met tragedy over the past year.  2016 was bathed in conflict, controversy, and sadness: racial tension, police officers and criminals, natural disasters, religious doctrines, sex-trafficking, ISIS, battles over human rights.  I couldn’t listen to the radio or check out social media without discovering another tug-of-war within humanity.  Often times, it was too much to stomach.  (We won’t even go into the hatred spewed during this year’s election.)  What was happening to this world?!  Is this how God created people to be?!

Toss into mix my own family trials that knocked the wind right out of us in 2016.  My mother suffered a stroke in late August and is still in rehabilitation.  This prompted an unexpected trip to visit her in September, during which my husband underwent an emergency appendectomy while my daughter and I were traveling back to GA from PA.  (He arrived home with the help from a friend about the time I walked through our kitchen door.)  My husband had other bouts in the ER throughout the year.  My sister-in-law had a cancer scare and thyroid surgery.  And me?  Well, I received the gift of the beginnings of menopause in January and was recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  In March, I had a traumatic flashback from childhood that caused my depression to spiral.  (I am not ready to journey down that blogger’s road by sharing the deep darkness of my past, although I am sure that day is coming.)  As my depression worsened, my physician decided medication was the best route.  It would be easy to bitterly, with tongue in cheek, exclaim a sarcastic, “Thank YOU, 2016!” and insert a few Fred Flintstone grumbles in place of cussing out the whole year.

Yet it will do me no good to yell and scream obscenities as Auld Lang Syne plays somewhere in the distance.  The more I struggled personally, the louder God’s voice became as He guided me to one particular verse: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last” (Job 19:25, New Living Translation).  I had to hold on to His promise in the midst of this tumultuous year.  I’ve learned in my counseling courses that although a complete dichotomy stands between the evil in this world and the goodness that is God, making it impossible at times to believe that there can be one AND the other … both do indeed exist.  God is good, He has always been good, He will always be good.  Satan may have his sway on this earth now, but eternity sees him bound in hell while my God reigns forevermore.  I am reminded that while suffering takes place, it – and all of this life for that matter – is temporary.  My husband and I were discussing getting older and losing loved ones, and he brought up a good point.  When we were very young, we thought that 40 was old.  Now we are in our 40s, and we realize a lifetime has passed in the blink of an eye.  Soon, Lord willing, we will be in our 60s and eventually 80s, and it, too, will fly by just as quickly as this half of our lives.  Thank GOD for eternity, or what would be the point of this short little life?

So goodbye to 2016, a year of painful lessons – some visible, others, not so much.  I have to hold on to my faith in God and His promise that no tears are wasted.  He has a purpose for each and every one, and I praise Him for the day when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4, NLT).

Welcome, 2017.  And come, Lord Jesus, come.

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My Theology of Suffering

The following is part of a paper I wrote for one of my crisis counseling courses.  To be honest, God spoke directly to my heart as I penned the words.  I pray that your heart is touched as you read.  Thank you for taking a glimpse into my world today.

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Suffering is rampant throughout the world today.  One cannot turn on the news without witnessing stories of lives torn apart, whether by seemingly small-scale events or national disasters.  Some are “acts of God,” such as Hurricane Katrina.  Others are man-made, such as the attacks on the United States that occurred September 11, 2001.  While there are some who cling to faith in God during traumatic incidents, many – even believers in Christ – question God’s reasoning and possibly His existence.  In spite of the difficulty in comprehending both the presence of pain and the existence of God, both are very real.  It took one act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden for suffering to become reality, yet trials are not without purpose.  Suffering strengthens individuals.  Tribulations point toward the need for redemption.  Pain can draw us closer to God.  Heartache creates compassion for those in need.  Humanity can find hope in that although we suffer now, one day Christ will return to redeem the world and His people, and we can share in His glory forevermore.

The bible teaches that God is good.  There are 61 verses in the bible that reference the goodness of God.  One such verse is Psalm 119:68, “You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees” (New Living Translation).  Christians are fond of proclaiming to one another, “God is good,” which generally evokes the reply, “All the time!”  Yet it is evident that a good God coexists with suffering in this world.  This coexistence forces individuals to develop their own theology of suffering.

From early in life, humans discover the existence of suffering in this world.  Whether just or unjust, people experience pain due to their own mistakes, the actions of others, or what some consider to be acts of God.  The reality of evil in this world causes many to question the very existence of an all-knowing, all-loving Creator.  Diane Langberg (2005) states the dilemma of “two irreconcilable realities … what is one to do with the rape of a child and the reality of God?” (p. 419).  Yet ever since Adam and Eve committed the first sin, humanity has suffered – and God still reigns.

However, it is not merely people who suffer.  According to Dan Allender (2001), the earth suffers due to disease, death, and decay.  Additionally, until Christ’s return, humanity aches: “We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23, New King James Version).  God suffers as well.  Not only did Christ suffer on our behalf, but God feels our every hurt and sees our every tear.  All of this pain is not for loss.  Paul told the Roman church that, “… we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:16b-17, NKJV).  Believers have the hope that although there is suffering now, Christ is with them, and they can look forward to future glory with Him as well.

It is through suffering that God strengthens His children.  Psalm 66:10 reads, “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined” (NKJV).  The poet Naomi Shihab Nye writes that we must “lose things” before we can know kindness (2016).  Suffering gives us hearts of compassion for others in this world, that we may touch their lives with the love that God has bestowed upon us.  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (NLT).  Humans will never understand this world. The earth will never fit picture-perfect ideals because this world is not heaven. Realistically, man’s ideals do not always honor God.  Man’s ideals often create isolation from those who are viewed as different. If the world were perfect according to people’s ideals, there would be no need for serving others.  There would be no need to reach out to the helpless, the hopeless, the grieving, or the suffering, and without that, how in the world could individuals ever become more Christ-like?  How would mankind ever experience God’s loving mercies?

Jesus Christ is the epitome of God’s goodness and love.  He became God incarnate, that is, God in human form or in the flesh.  Jesus was God’s one and only Son.  His entire life was spent serving God.  Everything He did was for God’s glory, and He gave God that glory.  He was obedient, even to the point of crucifixion upon the cross.  God sent His own Son to be beaten, tortured, mocked, spat upon, degraded, and murdered.  Loving parents would never even consider sending their child into a situation such as that.  Indeed, God is not an ordinary Father, and Jesus was by no means any ordinary Son.  As previously stated, Jesus was God.  John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (New International Version).  When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, fellowship with God was broken.  Humanity could not restore that relationship on its own.  Observing mankind throughout the ages and even today, many believe they do not desire that fellowship.  Still … God wanted it.  God wanted restoration and redemption, and the only way for that to happen was a perfect sacrifice.  The only sacrifice good enough was God Himself.  God chose to send His Son – His perfect, glorious Son – because He loves people.  Mankind is blemished with sin, and yet God believes each person is worth dying for.  The Creator of the universe left the glory of heaven to come to earth in order to not only die and rise again for the redemption of this sin-stained world, but in order to experience the utmost in human suffering so that He knows how human pain feels.  Jesus knows what it is like to cry out to the Father during suffering, as seen in Matthew 27:46, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (New American Standard Bible).  He feels the anguish of suffering souls, and He is by their side, crying with them.

It may take an undefined amount of time, but the day can come when those who have suffered loss can look back at their traumatic times and name the beauty that God brought from them.  The bible describes such beauty in Isaiah 61:1-3:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. (NLT)

Suffering depicts the gospel.  Pain points to Christ’s suffering on the cross.  If He would have only died and not been resurrected, there would be no hope.  However, He did rise again, and when people invite God into their suffering, hope becomes possible.  If people are wounded simply for pain’s sake, it is like leaving Jesus on that cross without completing His purpose.  Yet, if individuals allow others into their redemption stories, hope is offered via the ministry of presence and the relief of not being alone; someone else truly understands.  The empathy that occurs is genuine, and when that authenticity is perceived by another agonized soul, it can bring comfort beyond measure.  The healing God did in the life of one who suffered is witnessed up close, and at that point, survivors of trauma join Christ in stepping on the neck of evil, taking what was meant to harm and using it for something good.

In the end, Jesus promises to put an end to suffering upon His return.  Revelation 21:4 reads, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (NLT).  Suffering, while not enjoyable, serves a purpose today.  Praise God the day will come, though, when all pain, grief, sorrow and tears will be gone forever; Christ will make all things new (Revelation 21:5).

References

Allender, D. (2001). Suffering and glory. In Clinton, T., Hindson, E., & Ohlschlager, G.   (Eds.), The soul care bible (pp. 646-647). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Langberg, D. (2005). Adult survivors of sexual abuse: Trauma, treatment, and living in the truth. In Clinton, T., Hart, A., & Ohlschlager, G. (Eds.), Caring for people God’s way (pp. 409-443). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Nye, N.S. (2016). Kindness. Retrieved from https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/kindness (Original work published 1952)

Struggle

I look back at the old me:

The thinner me,

The filthy-on-the-inside me,

And I don’t want to be her (do I want to be her?).

I don’t miss the way she was (oh, how I miss the way she looked!).

So I keep running away from her,

Protecting myself from her with food and fat.

I see my picture and ugh, I look like that?!

I can’t bear to see what I’ve become!

Different now?  Yes.

Better now? Yes.

All on the inside, all on the inside.

Yet I am unhealthy, inside and out.

Eating my emotions. Sabotaging my health.

Not afraid to die, except for the pain.

Not wanting to die … but is this not a slow form of suicide?

Take another bite.  (Not worth the fight.)

Feeling disgusted.  Feeling defeated.

How ridiculous this must seem, in a world of pain.

No one to blame but myself.

Why can’t I just get this right?

Why do I care so much (but you ARE beautiful … lies, lies!)?

He thinks I’m beautiful (how? why?).

God beautifully wove me, right?

So tired of the struggle.

So tired of the fight.

Not giving up … but can’t seem to find …

Victory tonight.

To Be, Or Not To Be … Transparent.

It seems that lately, more of my friends and acquaintances are sharing their problems with me.  As a psychology/counseling major, this is something that actually makes me feel good; I am happy that others feel safe coming to me to bare their souls, or sometimes just to vent.  Part of me wishes that I had some profound, godly, wonderful advice to give that would help my friends to say, “Yes! That is just what I needed!”  Most often times, though, I am just as perplexed as they are.  Sometimes I just listen, nod, and offer to pray for them (this is not a bad thing, mind you).  And sometimes I feel myself holding back the words that might just help the most … “I understand what you are going through, and this is why.”

Why are we so guarded with our own lives?  I’m not talking about airing your world on social media for everyone to see.  I’m talking about one-on-one, someone needs help, I truly DO understand the situation, but God forbid I allow my vulnerability to show.  Is it a desire to appear perfect?  Is it a mistrust of others?  Is it really just none of your business what I’ve been through?

First and foremost, God has forgiven my past through the blood and mercy of Jesus Christ.  I AM a new creation in Him!  And if you have given your life to Jesus, then YOU are too!  Romans 8:1 (NASB) tells us, “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Our pasts no longer have reign over us.  If anyone judges us based on our pasts, remember that they are not our final Judge … that would be God, and God has forgiven our sins.

Even so, it can be extremely difficult to rip the band-aid off that old wound, even if that means helping someone who is currently going through that experience.  We never like to portray ourselves in a negative light.  Yet the Bible paints a different picture.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB).

Our purpose in life is to glorify God.  God makes all things new – including our messes.  He takes that ugly past and allows it to be used to help someone else.  Maybe it’s to help someone else to break free of that bondage.  Maybe it’s just to let someone know, “Hey! You’re not the only one!”  After all, isn’t that what we really need to hear?  You. Are. Not. Alone.

What about the present?  God doesn’t just use our past experiences to help others; He uses our day-to-day lives.  We are careful to keep our happy faces on when we are around others.  While it is absolutely great to be uplifting and positive, we … Ineed to let people in, so that God can once again let people know they are not the only ones.  The Christian walk isn’t all sunshine and roses.  We still struggle.  Christ struggled all the way to Golgotha and up on to the cross!  Should we expect no pain?  Christ never wavered; He kept His eyes on God.  We are to do the same.  Friend, there truly is a peace in Him that allows me to go through trials in a way I never could when I walked without Him.  There is faith.  There is hope.  To the unbeliever, it may sound crazy – but I know in my heart that even if a bad situation turns out for the worst, it is not the end of the world because this life is just a blip in eternity.  There will come a day with no more tears, no more suffering, and eternal joy in heaven. Matthew 10:28 (NASB) reads, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  The trials of this world are temporary; in the end, Jesus is Lord forever … and I love Him.

I do not need to fear transparency.  God has called me … and all of us … to it.  Yes, there must be discretion.  However, when it comes to ministering to others, some of the best counseling comes from letting our guard down a bit and really showing people they are not alone in their struggles.  My husband preached this morning and admitted to our church that yes, pastors’ lives are messed up too!  Satan isn’t just attacking you … he has his sights set on all of us.  As Christians, we all have a common enemy – but praise God, we all have a common Savior too!

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NASB)

So to be honest, I struggle.  I struggle with depression.  I struggle financially.  I struggle with not only using food for comfort, but hiding behind being overweight as a barrier to protect myself from being the woman I was in my past.  I struggle with being a wife and a mother and trying to do it all right.  I struggle with witnessing to others about my faith.  I struggle with standing up for what is right when those around me are knee-deep in tearing others down.  I am human.  How about you?