Last Tuesday I led a Bible Study that I titled “What Does The Bible Say About Depression”. It was so we'll received by the Bible Study participants that my Pastor asked me to deliver the information in a sermon in our Sunday Worship Services. The main point both presentations is that Christians are not immune to depression.
We Christians often over-spiritualize depression and neglect the very real physical needs of a person caught in depression’s grip. On the other hand, non-Christians tend to focus too much on the physical aspects of depression and neglect spiritual health.
The church tends to have trouble talking about depression because it’s messy and uncomfortable. But this is something that’s not going away. More and more people who show up on Sunday Mornings are struggling with this very real issue. However, when people sit in church pews, the atmosphere isn't usually conducive to people admitting they have a problem and asking for help. Instead, everyone tries to appear as perfect as possible. Coming to church has nothing to do with who you actually are but rather with how you appear.
Depression can be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed.
Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering.
Depression is an emotionally unhealthy condition that needs to be addressed often with the help of a healthcare professional. It's important that we know the symptoms and signs that you may be an emotionally unhealthy Christian.
The Top Eight Signs of an Emotionally Unhealthy Christian
taken from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete ScazzeroP
1. Using God to Run from God
2. Ignoring Anger, Sadness, and Fear
Most Christians are taught that almost all feelings are unreliable and not to be trusted. It is true that some Christians follow their feelings in an unhealthy, unbiblical way. It is more common, however, to encounter Christians who do not believe they have permission to admit their feelings or express them openly. This applies especially to such “difficult” feelings as fear, sadness, shame, anger, hurt, and pain. And yet, how can we listen to what God is saying and evaluate what is going on inside when we cut ourselves off from our emotions?
3. Denying the Impact of the Past on the Present
You are under the delusion that because you've accepted Jesus, your old life is no longer in you. Your past before Christ was painful. and you want to forget it. You never want to look back. Life is so much better now that Jesus is with you. You think that you are free.
However when you really look at your life you realize that the things you do look a lot like what you saw when you were growing up. You have the same mannerisms as your parents or guardians. Even though you have been a committed Christian for years our way of relating to situations and others mirrors more of your background than the way God intended for his new family in Christ.
The work of growing in Christ actually demands we go back in order to break free from unhealthy and destructive patterns that prevent us from loving ourselves and others as God designed.
4. Doing for God Instead of Being with God
Work for God that is not nourished by a deep interior life with God will eventually be contaminated by other things such as ego, power, needing approval from others, and buying into the wrong ideas of success and the mistaken belief that we can’t fail. We become “human doings” not “human beings.” Our experiential sense of worth and validation gradually shifts from God’s unconditional love for us in Christ to our works and performance. Our activity for God can only properly flow from a life with God.
5. Spiritualizing Away Conflict
Perhaps one of the most destructive myths alive in the Christian community today is the belief that smoothing over disagreements or “sweeping them under the rug” is part of what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus shows us that healthy Christians do not avoid conflict. His life was filled with it! He was in regular conflict with the religious leaders, the crowds, the disciples—even his own family. Out of a desire to bring true peace, Jesus disrupted the false peace all around him. He refused to spiritualize conflict avoidance.
6. Covering Over Brokenness, Weakness, and Failure
The pressure to present an image of ourselves as strong and spiritually “together” hovers over most of us. We feel guilty for not measuring up, for not making the grade. We forget that not one of us is perfect and that we are all sinners.
The Bible does not spin the flaws and weaknesses of its heroes. Moses was a murderer. Hosea’s wife was a prostitute. Peter rebuked God! Noah got drunk. Jonah was a racist. Jacob was a liar. John Mark deserted Paul. Elijah burned out. Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal. Thomas doubted. Moses had a temper. Timothy had ulcers. And all these people send the same message: that every human being on earth, regardless of their gifts and strengths, is weak, vulnerable, and dependent on God and others.
7. Living Without Limits
We were taught that good Christians constantly give and tend to the needs of others. We aren't wasn’t supposed to say no to requests for help because that would be selfish. The core spiritual issue here relates to our limits and our humanity. We are not God. We cannot serve everyone in need.
Why don’t we take appropriate care of ourselves? Why are so many Christians, frantic, exhausted, overloaded, and hurried? Few Christians make the connection between love of self and love of others. As Parker Palmer said, “Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.”
8. Judging Other People’s Spiritual Journey
This has always been one of the greatest dangers in Christianity. Sadly, we often turn our differences into moral superiority or virtues. By failing to let others be themselves before God and move at their own pace, we inevitably project onto them our own discomfort with their choice to live life differently than we do. Like Jesus said, unless I first take the log out of my own eye, knowing that I have huge blind spots, I am dangerous. I must see the extensive damage sin has done to every part of who I am—emotion, intellect, body, will, and spirit—before I can attempt to remove the speck from the eye of another (Matthew 7:1–5).
For more information about Pete and Emotionally Healthy Discipleship go to www.emotionallyhealthy.org or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
Here is how I end my sermon;
If you are depressed or think that you are depressed or headed toward depression keep these things in mind.
I know there are some people who still have trouble with the idea that someone who is truly a follower of Jesus could struggle with depression. If that’s the case for you, I would simply encourage you to read your Bible—and not just the uplifting stories but also the parts where it gets so real and raw that we squirm a bit.
If you know that you are depressed, think that you are depressed or headed for depression seek professional help. Look for a Christian mental health professional but if you can’t find a Christian professional, find and go see a mental health professional anyway.
I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or trained counselor so I urge you to not try to deal with depression yourself without the help of a trained professional.
10 Signs You are Emotionally Overwhelmed (And What to Do about It)
RJ Thesman, Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
*All Scripture inserts mine
Medical experts tell us multi-tasking does not work. Although we may feel more productive, multi-tasking actually confuses the brain and causes more stress. Likewise, when we are emotionally overwhelmed, our inner health is affected. Our souls become scarred and creativity flails. We lose energy even as the desire to help others becomes overshadowed by resentment.
How can we tell when we are emotionally overwhelmed? And how should respond we recognize this in our own lives.
1. We can't think.
We become confused at work, forget where we put the car keys—again—or completely space out during an important activity. Trying to come up with a new project or creative idea seems taxing, almost impossible. We may lose the capacity for routine tasks such as brushing our teeth or remembering to add soap to the laundry.
What you can do about it: During the overwhelming brain freeze, it’s important to realize you’re probably not heading for early-onset Alzheimer’s. You are just overwhelmed by the stresses of life and the burdens of others. Take a deep breath. Make a list and slowly accomplish one thing at a time. Give yourself grace and ask forgiveness when you forget your child’s soccer game.
Matthew 6:33-34 NIV But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
2. We can't sleep.
Although we feel exhausted by the burdens we bear, restful sleep seems as far away as next year’s vacation. We wake up in the middle of the night, worry about the latest problem and try to pray for everybody whose name starts with “J.” We climb out of bed and pace for a while until we feel tired enough to try sleep again.
What you can do about it: Keep the electronics away from your nightstand and turn off the computer at least one hour before bedtime. Before you climb into bed, cast every care on the One who never sleeps. Ask God to deal with any problems while you rest. Breathe deeply and focus on the peace Christ promised us. Try not to let troubles climb into bed with you.
John 14:1-4 NIV “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Proverbs 3:21-24 NIV My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (emphasis mine)
3. We feel impatient.
Waiting in line at the grocery store or twiddling our thumbs during a stop light. The computer rep on the phone puts us on hold—again. Doesn’t she know we’re busy serving the Lord? Number One son needs help with his math homework, but he can’t seem to understand basic algebra. The boss adds another task to the already overloaded calendar. Impatience makes us snap, because peace has left the building.
What you can do about it: Give yourself time to finish projects. Don’t over-promise anything. Fight against the perfectionism that leads to self-doubt and self-sabotage. Read Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. Shauna describes herself as being “exhausted and isolated, soul and body sick.” Then she learned how to pull back, how to protect her emotional energy and how to choose only the projects that fed her soul.
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (emphasis mine)
James 1:2-4 NIV Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (emphasis mine)
Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
4. We can't pray.
Communion with God suddenly feels like a rote experiment. We may read our required devotion every morning and repeat the usual “Thank you, God” prayer, but communication seems frazzled. God feels far away. We wonder if we have committed some terrible sin, or we may think God is pruning us for future service. But the One who promised to never leave us seems to have checked out.
What you can do about it: Read Psalm 59:3, especially in the Amplified version. “Fierce and mighty men are banding together against me, not for my transgression nor for any sin of mine.” This season is not your fault. When you’re emotionally exhausted, it’s difficult to communicate with anyone: spouse, friend, child, even the Yorkie terrier. When you can’t pray, it’s a signal from your soul: time to schedule a retreat and get away from all the mess.
Romans 8:26-27 NIV In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
5. We feel overburdened.
Like a heavy blanket, we know the struggles are piling up. Too many people with too many problems. So many meetings to attend and problems to fix. Shoulders feel tight and a migraine threatens. A coronary episode feels imminent. Is it time for a physical? You canceled the last one because the denominational conference seemed more important and you had to give the opening devotion.
What you can do about it: Talk to a close friend, someone you can trust. Release the burdens and let your friend help you pray. When Moses felt the burdens of battle, Aaron and Hur helped to lift his hands (Exodus 17). They were beside him for the duration. Their strength added to his power and the Israelites won.
Exodus 17:10-13 NIV So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
6. We don't want to be around people.
Emotional overwhelm may manifest in people resentment, especially for introverts. We’re already dealing with family dynamics and church problems. Another friend is in spiritual trouble and screaming for help. Our teenager just discovered her first zit and screamed, “Make it go away, Mom!” But we simply do not have the energy to come up with solutions for all the problems in our world. Our service well is completely dry.
What you can do about it: It’s time to build healthy boundaries. The word “no” is just as spiritual as, “Sure, I’ll help.” You don’t have to answer every text or read through every email. You can say, “Hmm, I’ll get back to you later.” Take a rejuvenating nap. Fight for self-care and avoid codependency. Remember the example of Jesus. When the people pressed around him, he rowed across the lake and took a nap. He protected his emotional reserves. You can learn to do the same.
Luke 8:22 NIV One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.
Luke 5:15-16 NIV Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
7. We become moody.
A snarky attitude begins to take over. We find ourselves snapping at the news anchor because he only reports the bad stuff. We yell at the kids even though they’re just being kids when they run through the house or spit out vegetables. We yell at the cars next to us and use words that are better left unspoken. We hope nobody from church finds out we just cussed at the school crossing guard. All those negative emotions are trying to spill out. They need a release valve. If you don’t do something soon, you will either explode or you’ll internalize which can lead to emotional implosion.
What you can do about it: It’s time to do something physical. Go to the gym and beat on the punching bag. Take a brisk walk around the block — alone. Talk out your emotions as you walk. My favorite release is to beat a cardboard box around the back yard using my son’s baseball bat. Sometimes I label the box with the name of a situation causing me grief. I have destroyed numerous boxes but afterward, I felt better.
John 21:1-3 NIV Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus ), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
8. We feel numb.
The numbness of emotional overwhelm is actually more dangerous than moodiness or the expression of negative behaviors. Numbing means we’ve internalized the emotions and now we’re in danger of major problems. Especially for people in ministry, numbing seems like a protective device. But later, sometimes years later, another emotional overload adds to the enormous burden. We find ourselves trying to self-medicate and doing things we never would have imagined. We suddenly realize we are the ones in trouble.
What you can do about it: Find a credible counselor, someone you can trust and someone who is skilled. This may be the time to consider medication to help you get over the hump and give you the ability to function. Visit your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist who can prescribe antidepressants if they are needed.
Proverbs 11:14 NKJV Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
Proverbs 19:20-21 NKJV Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days. There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord ’s counsel—that will stand.
Ecclesiastes 4:13 ESV Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.
9. We stop having fun.
The kids want to go to a movie or out for pizza but we just want to take a nap. The family wants to schedule a vacation but we can’t think of a single place to go. Game night becomes boring. Date night seems impossible. The usual sitcom that makes us laugh now offers no relief. We punch through the channels and consider getting rid of cable because nothing’s on TV anyway.
What you can do about it: Make just one change. Sometimes one change begins a stepping stone of transition to help you climb out of the pit. One change may release some of the tension. Even a change in routine might bring back some enjoyment in life: a different coffee shop, a new outfit, a fun hair color. That single action may you help make it through a difficult season.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (emphasis mine)
Proverbs 17:22 NIV A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
10. We suffer with chronic illness.
A series of colds or flu or a strange virus suddenly attacks. This can happen even months after the emotional trauma eases. The body has carried too much for too long and becomes toxic. It unloads those emotional poisons. Unfortunately, many of us wait too long for this wake up call. As ministry exhaustion flayed my emotions, I began to notice monthly colds. Just as I conquered one, another one attacked. Then bronchial pneumonia set in and it was four months before I could sleep without coughing.
What you can do about it: Pay attention now to the rest your body needs. Take care of yourself with regular doctor visits and proper nutrition. Nuts or a magnesium supplement can help restore energy. Make daily exercise a priority. Self-care is a vital spiritual discipline.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
I’ve written a number of posts on burnout and of the importance of rest as defense against it. In several of those posts I’ve pointed out that that God commands us to rest and He did it when He issued and wrote the 10 Commandments. The commandment with the most written about it the one to remember the Sabbath, the day of rest.
Exodus 20:8-11 NIV “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
In observing thus commandment you are doing what God did after He created everything.
Genesis 2:2-3 NIV By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
The Hebrew word shabbāt, translated as Sabbath means intermission. It is from a root word, shābat, that means, to repose, i.e. desist from exertion; cease, celebrate, cause; rest, rid, still, take away.
The ultimate Sabbath is that promised in Hebrews that we are urged not to miss
Hebrews 4:1-11 NIV Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.” Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
This rest is our redemption and the main reason for us to remember the Sabbath our rest from works of the flesh.
10 Concise Reasons to Remember the Sabbath
Having enjoyed yesterday another Sabbath, where my soul was rejuvenated and my heart made glad, I thought I would encourage you with ten concise reasons (five coming from the Old Testament and five from the New) as to why you should honor the Lord's Day.
First and foremost, remembering the Sabbath is a command. From the first week of creation (Gen. 2:3-4), to the formalizing it in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8-11), to the prophets urging the people to honor it (Jer. 17:27), the Sabbath Day is a command given to God's people.
The Sabbath offers rest to you. The word Sabbath means "rest," the fourth commandment calls people to rest from their labors on this day (Ex. 20:10), and it is a promise that God will give rest to his people (Ex. 35:2).
The Sabbath is a sign of spiritual realities. In Exodus 31:12, the Lord told Moses to instruct the people, "Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you." The Sabbath is a sign of wonderful blessings the Lord desires to give to his people.
In particular, the Sabbath is a sign promising redemption. In the two places in the Bible where the Ten Commandments are listed (Ex. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:6-21), dual acts of God are given as reasons for observing the Sabbath. The first act is the creation of the world (Ex. 20:11) and the second is redemption from slavery (Deut. 5:15). The One who made the world, then watched mankind plunge itself into sin and slavery, promises via the Sabbath that he will redeem his people.
The Sabbath prophesied that Christ would bring this redemption. The prophet Isaiah, as he looks ahead to the age of Christ, equates the Sabbath Day with the Day of the Lord (or the Lord's Day), and anticipates great blessing to those who observe it faithfully.
If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Is. 58:13-14)
In the Old Testament, the term "day of the Lord" was used to signify a visitation of the Lord to bring judgment on his enemies and deliverance to his people. Isaiah is seeing the Sabbath become an ultimate time of victory and blessing for the Lord and his people.
Jesus kept the Sabbath. As the New Testament opens up with the gospel accounts, we see that our Lord Jesus observed the Sabbath himself (Luke 4:16), told us he was Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8), and taught the day was made for us (Mark 2:27). Knowing that Jesus kept it gives us both precept and example to do likewise.
Jesus used the Sabbath to preach and bring redemption. Jesus was most active on the Sabbath, to the Pharisees' chagrin and to his Father's delight. He preached and taught on this day (Mark 1:21, 6:2; Luke 4:14-15). And he especially healed on the Sabbath, bringing restoration to such people as the man with the withered hand (Matt. 12:9-14), the demon-possessed man in Capernaum (Luke 4:31-37), the woman bent double for 18 years (Luke 13:10-17), the man suffering from dropsy (Luke 14:1-6), the man born blind (John 9:1-17), and the man who had been an invalid for 38 years by the Pool of Siloam (John 5:1-17). The One that the Old Testament Sabbath signified would come bringing redemption has arrived!
By virtue of his death and resurrection, the Lord transformed the day of rest to the first day of the week. The Old Testament Sabbath was on the last day of the week. Yet with Christ being crucified on Friday, in the grave throughout Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath), and being raised early Sunday morning, we see that the old Sabbath with its shadows and sacrifices died with Christ. But Christ was raised on the first day of the week to show his victory over sin, death, and Satan, fulfilling what the Sabbath Day promised. Sunday then marks a new Christian Sabbath, or the Lord's Day, as he defeated our enemies and delivered us from our sins.
Repeatedly in the New Testament, the Lord indicates that the first day of the week is now the new holy day for Christians. We see this a number of times in the New Testament.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples on the first day of his resurrection, Thomas was not there. To overcome his doubts, Jesus appeared to him a week later on Sunday and Thomas worshiped the risen Lord (John 20:24-28).
Pentecost is the day the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to the church (Acts 2:1-4). Pentecost was an Old Testament feast day celebrating the first fruits of harvest, and it derives its name from the number 50. By coming fifty days after the Passover, or "on the day after the Sabbath" (Lev. 23:11), clearly Pentecost fell on the first day of the week. The Lord sending his Spirit to the church and reaping a gospel harvest on the first day of the week is significant of his desire for worship and preaching to occur on this day.
The New Testament testifies that the early church began meeting on this day for worship, preaching, giving, and prayer (Acts 20:1 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Rev 1:10).
The Lord's Day points us to the great coming Day of the Lord. Hebrews 4:9 tells us that "there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." Every time we gather as the church for worship on the Lord's Day, we should be reminded, examined, and prepared for the great day of judgment and consummation that yet awaits us as Christ will return (Matt. 25:31-46).
With these reasons in mind, how we should set the Lord's Day apart for worship, rest, mercy, and preparation for heaven to take place!
This article originally appeared on GentleReformation.com. Used with permission.
I was surprised early this morning with something unexpected. My first reaction wasn't fear. The fear quickly passed with struggling with how to fix it. After stopping a minute to pray the Holy Spirit gave me a solution which I followed through on and, although the issue is not solved completely, there’s one final piece, I believe that it is the Holy Spirit's solution, so I’m confident in its ultimate satisfactory completion.
As I went through the process, which took about an hour, I decided to cast that care on God and rest in Him. Then I read this.
Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
10 Ways To Cast Your Care & Rest In God
*Scriptures added by me.
In Philippians 4, Paul tells us we should be anxious for nothing. Here are ten ways to learn to cast your care and rest and God.
Offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. Use your words and imagination to recount the many blessings that God has given you instead of using them to predict a hopeless future.
Less Worry, More Prayer
Pray without ceasing can be as easy as quietly in your own heart asking God to move on your behalf. Try this before going into your next meeting at work or when a worrisome thought tries to creep in.
Regular Devotional Time
Have you had your appointment with God today? A daily visit with the Lord no matter how brief can change the direction of your entire day. Daily visiting with Him builds trust at the depth of who we are…allowing His love to anchor our souls.
Psalms 59:16 NKJV But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense And refuge in the day of my trouble.
Psalms 63:1 NKJV O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
Draw On Joy
The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength and that there is joy in His presence. Possess and benefit from the presence of God. Enjoy reveling in His nature and becoming more like Him.
Nehemiah 8:10 NKJV Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Psalms 16:11 NKJV You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I Peter 1:6-9 NKJV In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
Spend Time With Encouragers
Don’t have an entourage of negative people around you. Do your best to surround yourself with people of like-mind and heart. Regular fellowship with encouragers helps to remove some the stinky gunk of life that tries to take our eyes off God.
I Thessalonians 5:11 NKJV Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
Hebrews 10:25 NKJV not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Proverbs 27:17 NKJV As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
Colossians 3:16 NKJV Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Arrest Your Thoughts
When you take something captive, you take authority over it and detain it. We have to take this position with our thought life otherwise if we just go with the flow, we could fall victim to the enemy’s fiery darts. Don’t take ownership of every thought, question the source.
II Corinthians 10:4-6 NKJV For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Think On These Things
Phillippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Enough said.
Sabbath Rest & BlessingsThis is more than an Old Testament commandment. This is essential to regulate the human mind, body and spirit. We’re not robots designed to just go, our Creative design requires a regular rhythm of rest.
Exodus 20:8-11 NKJV “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stronger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Dance, sing, and play in the spirit. Sit down in your heart and just be. Learn to have fun in the spirit with a child-like faith that enjoys spending time with the Father.
Romans 14:17 NKJV for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 18:2-4 NKJV Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Psalms 149:1-5 NKJV Praise the Lord ! Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds.
Philippians 4:7 NIV And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Have you ever had one of those day, weeks, months, or years where you are running at break-neck, non-stop speed. You are so exhausted at the end of the day that you fall into bed expecting to sleep through the night waking up ready for the next day. But knowing everything that needs to be done tomorrow and trying to figure out how to get it all done keeps you awake. All this activity, anxiety, worry, and stress takes a toll on us and sends us careening toward burnout.
Every evening, millions of people crawl into bed and struggle either to go to sleep or stay asleep through the quiet hours of the night. What’s worse, lying awake during those dark and silent times can bring on a busy mind and anxious thoughts that make sleeping seem even more impossible. Instead of recharging and resting peacefully before the alarm rings, the early morning sunbeams are met with exhaustion and difficulty focusing.
I thank God that even with all the stuff that has gone on in my life including; divorce, multiple job losses resulting in multiple times of financial lack, a rebellious child, death of children, and finally the death of my wife after many years of depression and physical illness, I never had trouble sleeping at night. I never had trouble because I knew that after doing all that I could do, I had to leave the things out of my control to the One who is always in control.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Isaiah 45:5-7 NIV I am the Lord , and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord , and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord , do all these things.
Psalm 46:1-3 NIV God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
1 John 4:18 NIV There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
God’s Peace for When You Are Anxious About Tomorrow (and Can't Sleep)
by Christina Vinson, from God's Peace for When You Can't Sleep
As you sink into bed tonight, exhausted, are you already thinking about tomorrow’s meetings, next week’s obligations, next month’s deadlines?
You’re anxious about tomorrow… and the next day… and the next.
Whether you’re a busy mom who’s worried about your child’s future, an overwhelmed college student in the throes of midterms, or a rising executive with demands pulling from every direction, it’s difficult not knowing what tomorrow will bring. This anxiety is something that keeps many people awake at night — but does it do any good?
One result of anxiety is that it can certainly make you feel productive. At least you’re keeping a running tally in your mind of things to do, scenarios that could go wrong, or new ideas to explore, right? But the problem is this: you can’t keep going all the time. Your mind and body need a break. You need a break. Your boss needs a break. Even the president needs a break sometimes.
The best thing you can do for yourself is take time to rest. True rest doesn’t look like collapsing into bed, nerves fried and adrenaline pumping, either. It looks like letting your mind, body, and soul rest in the palm of the Lord.
True rest always involves surrendering to God.
God doesn’t tell us to rest for His own good — He tells us to rest for our own good. God worked six days and rested the seventh. He was — and is — the mastermind behind the entire world, yet He took time to give Himself a break. To cease from working, to cease from creating, cease from doing.
Emulate the Lord’s pattern of work and rest tonight.
While you are in bed you can’t work efficiently and you certainly can’t get anything done. Nighttime calls for rest. There may be unforeseen challenges ahead tomorrow, and there might be things that have been left undone today. But the Lord tells us not to worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).
Sink into your bed letting a wave of relief wash over you; tomorrow is not yet here. You have nothing on your agenda right now except for sleep.
Ask the Lord to lift the burden of anxiety off your shoulders.
As sure as the stars twinkling in the night sky, He will answer your request. As gently as the crickets sing throughout the evening, the Lord will come to you. Rest tonight, dear one. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. — Philippians 4:6
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. — Psalm 55:22
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. — Psalm 34:17 ESV
But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. — Leviticus 25:4 ESV
I come to You with a troubled, anxious heart, Lord. I ask You now to take away my anxiety and fear so that I can rest deeply tonight. Please answer my prayer quickly!
Excerpted with permission from God’s Peace for When You Can’t Sleep, copyright Thomas Nelson.
Philippians 4:4-7 NIV Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Don't let sleepless nights rob you of peace God’s Peace for When You Can’t Sleep is a wonderful means for calming the mind and soothing the spirit during those drawn-out periods of restlessness. There are words of encouragment, quotes, Bible verses, blessings, praise and prayers to help direct your thoughts toward a serene and tranquil place of rest—a place full of God’s presence of peace. It’s the perfect companion to keep within reach for any time of night or early morning hours. Regular Price: $9.99
Rest and you’ll be more productive.
Busyness is today’s badge of success. We even carry this over to ministry, thinking the busier we are for God, the more He must be blessing our church, our business, or our ministry. But God would rather have us be with Him than do a bunch of things for Him.
Yes, we are to work hard when we work
Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
But we are commanded to rest;
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (NKJV)12 'Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
The Commandment about the Sabbath Day says as much about rest as it does anything else, in fact this Commandment is the one with the most written about it.
Psalm 127:2 (NKJV)2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.
He gives to His children even in their sleep.
That means that as you rest and trust in Him, He can provide for you.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV)8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
Renew Your Spirit
Church, people, schedules and taking on the devil head-on is depleting. If you are exhausted you won't be able to fight and resist the devil. When you are feeling discouraged, stop yourself for a moment and release the burden to God. On your bad days, you should rest and on your good days, you should rest.
When you don’t feel like you can make it another day, turn to the Scriptures to drown out depression, anxiety, doubt and anger. God promised to renew our strength like the eagle, and we will run and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Also, go to the Bible, a devotional, enter into prayer, or play worship music to encourage yourself and to keep your spirit energized. You need to come to Jesus and just humble yourself before Him.
Matthew 11:29-30 (NKJV)29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Serve God out of love for Him, not to earn His love for you, and not in order for Him to bless you. When you take time to rest and to remember that you were created to love God and enjoy Him forever, He brings a satisfaction to your soul and a joy to your heart and a productivity to your work.
Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 107:9 (NKJV)9 For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
That is restful and successful living.
I've been writing about ministry burnout a lot since I started the Burnout category on this blog back in April. Since then I've published 10 posts. Included in those post is "Keeping The Sabbath Is A Defense Against Ministry Burnout". In that post I pointed out that the Bible calls those who don't rest disobedient.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 NIV “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
The Commandment about the Sabbath Day says as much about rest as it does anything else, in fact this Commandment is the one with the most written about it. This Commandment tells the Israelites to take a day off.
The Hebrew word shabbāt, translated in English as Sabbath means intermission. It is from a root word, shābat, that means, to repose, i.e. desist from exertion; cease, celebrate, cause; rest, rid, still, take away.
The Holy Spirit continues to remind me about ways to avoid ministry burnout and as long as He reminds me I will remind you. The latest reminder came in the form of an excerpts from Shelia Walsh"s book 5 Minutes with Jesus.
When you tell a friend to have a cup of coffee on you what you mean is that you want them to enjoy that coffee and not worry about coming up the the money to pay for it. It's the same way with God and the Sabbath. It's like God saying take a day to rest and recharge, "it's on Me.
Take a Day Off
from 5 Minutes with Jesus by Sheila Walsh
Do you ever feel that if you are asked to do one more thing you will physically combust? I’ve definitely had those moments.
I recently read an article about the exhausted American workforce. It mentioned a young working mother who was stretched so thin that she always entered the cook time on the microwave as 1:11, 2:22, or 3:33, instead of 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00. Hitting the same key repeatedly saved her time.¹
Yowser! That is one stretched-thin woman!
And she isn’t alone. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, What a great idea! I think I’ll start cooking like that! I hope you don’t feel that pressed for time, but even if you don’t, you’re probably still overworked and deeply tired.
What if I could give you a day off? Not just from work but also from the burdens of your soul, to-do lists, and “should’ve”s? What if I said that, as a bonus, you had permission to shut out all the voices that are screaming at you to buy more, do more, be more?
The only thing for you to do on this day would be to rest in God’s presence and hear from Him how much He loves you. You would spend quiet time with Him, worship Him, and get outside. You would spend quality time with your family and friends, maybe share a great meal together and linger at the table. At the end of this beautiful day of recharging, you would find your strength and courage renewed for the week ahead.
Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? But it isn’t a dream. It’s called the Sabbath. As a culture, we’ve gotten away from observing the Sabbath. Maybe it was because some of us grew up under a legalistic observation of it. I understand. I’m certainly not suggesting legalism. God never meant for the Sabbath to be a burden.
But we miss something when we completely dismiss it. Without this special time set apart to be with God and hear from Him, our hearts grow dry and weary. One Jewish theologian said it beautifully: “Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profits from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.”²
Reconsider God’s gift of Sabbath. You may feel like you’ll be endlessly behind if you take this time away from your responsibilities, but I promise you that a recharging takes place when you observe the Sabbath — a recharging that simply doesn’t happen any other way.
God gave you the gift of the Sabbath because He loves you. I think it’s time to open that gift!
HolySpirit, help me observe a Sabbath — in a step of faith that things that need to get done will get done.
Five Minutes in the WordHis delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither. - Psalm 1:2-3 NKJV
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for He grants sleep to those He loves. - Psalm 127:2
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. - Deuteronomy 5:12
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. - Psalm 62:5-8
Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. - Luke 12:15
Excerpted with permission from 5 Minutes with Jesus: Quiet Time for Your Soul by Sheila Walsh, copyright Sheila Walsh
Step away from the noise and into the arms of your loving Savior. Bright screens, beeping notifications, a never-ending list of activities and to-dos . . . when do we ever stop? Is it any wonder we are deeply weary? Jesus longs to give you the gift of rest—to lead you beside quiet waters and refresh your soul. He stands with open arms, saying, “Come as you are!” With her signature honesty, vulnerability, and humor, bestselling author Sheila Walsh helps you seek Jesus in the quiet. Every entry features an encouraging devotion and takeaway along with powerful scriptures that guide you in drawing near to your life-giving God. -- The 5 Minutes with Jesus series is the perfect way to start your day with a replenished heart. Regular Price: $9.99
In the last month we have been shocked by the suicides of celebrities Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain. Most of us have wondered why would people who appeared to be very successful and had “everything going on” would take their own lives. They both appeared to be happy. I say that with the understanding that we never really know what’s going on when people are out of the public eye. These suicides shocked most of us. Their families and friends are devastated and struggling to trying figure out why they did it. Why they took a desperate step that can never be reversed.
This is a very real tragedy for the families and friends of these two people. However there are thousands of friends and families of people who took that same irreversible step, that are going through and dealing with this same tragedy, the suicide of a loved one. I’m going through it myself with some very close friends. As with Kate and Anthony there were no signs of warning, and we are at a loss as to why. With my friend there were no signs that anyone, including his wife and children, saw that would have caused this person to end his life.
Here are some statistics published in a June 7, 2018, Washington Post article published after Kate Spade’s suicide;
Suicide rates rose in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race and ethnicity, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In more than half of all deaths in 27 states, the people had no known mental health condition when they ended their lives.
In North Dakota, the rate jumped more than 57 percent. In the most recent period studied (2014 to 2016), the rate was highest in Montana, at 29.2 per 100,000 residents, compared with the national average of 13.4 per 100,000.
Only Nevada recorded a decline — of 1 percent — for the overall period, although its rate remained higher than the national average.
Increasingly, suicide is being viewed not only as a mental health problem but a public health one. Nearly 45,000 suicides occurred in the United States in 2016 — more than twice the number of homicides — making it the 10th-leading cause of death. Among people ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death. (Emphasis mine)
“Historically, men had higher death rates than women,” Kaslow noted. “That's equalizing not because men are [committing suicide] less but women are doing it more. That is very, very troublesome.”
“When you do a psychological autopsy and go and look carefully at medical records and talk to family members of the victims,” he said, “90 percent will have evidence of a mental health condition.” That indicates a large portion weren’t diagnosed, “which suggests to me that they’re not getting the help they need,”...(Emphasis mine)
Cultural attitudes may play a part. Those without a known mental health condition, according to the report, were more likely to be male and belong to a racial or ethnic minority.
“The data supports what we know about that notion,” Gordon said. “Men and Hispanics especially are less likely to seek help.”
The problems most frequently associated with suicide, according to the study, are strained relationships; life stressors, often involving work or finances; substance use problems; physical health conditions; and recent or impending crises. The most important takeaway, mental health professionals say, is that suicide is an issue not only for the mentally ill but for anyone struggling with serious lifestyle problems.
Christians And Suicide
I don’t know if Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain were Christians, but I do know that my friend was born again Christian, a loving husband, father, a good friend, and very active in his church. Knowing this about my friend many Christians will ask;
Most of us will agree that Christians can get depressed, but can Christians get suicidal? Good Christians? Many Christians believe, some unconsciously perhaps, that Christians do not and should not become suicidal, because suicide is, after all, something that only happens when you lose all hope, and don’t Christians have the best Hope there is? After all doesn’t God absolutely, 100% have the power to heal depression?
Most Christians will tell you that you have two options, to give in to that temptation and commit an irreversible (but not unforgivable) sin, or believe God’s promise:
“God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
We Christians often over-spiritualize depression and neglect the very real physical needs of a person caught in depression’s grip. On the other hand, non-Christians tend to focus too much on the physical aspects of depression and neglect spiritual health.
No matter what depression may look like, the attributes of God are almost always under attack. Doubt always follows closely on the heels of depression. If you’re a Christian and you’re depressed you’re in good company.
Moses was suicidal.
Numbers 11:14-15 (NLT2)14 I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy!15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”
Elijah was suicidal.
;1 Kings 19:3-4 (NLT2)3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there.4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
Jonah was suicidal. He asked to be thrown out of the boat, knowing that he wouldn’t survive;
Jonah 1:12 (NLT2) “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
Paul sounded depressed.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT2)8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
I’ve been personally concerned about how Christians view depression and suicide for a long time. My wife, who is now with the Lord, battled depression for the more than forty years that we were married. She attempted suicide three times while we were married and at least one time before our marriage (she died of Cardiopulmonary Arrest a complication that arose from the effects of metastatic lung cancer in 2015).
In December 2014, after Robin Williams’ suicide, I wrote and published a post “Christians And Depression”. In it I identified four warning signs that you may be headed for depression and a crash;
And three suggestions that can help get off the collision course toward depression and a crash;
I ended that post by saying If you know that you are depressed, think that you are depressed or headed for depression seek professional help. Look for a Christian mental health professional but if you can’t find a Christian professional, find and go see a mental health professional anyway.
The Struggle Of Suicide
Max Lucado - June 9, 2018
The suicides of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade illustrate an all-too-common tragedy— the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported this week that nearly 45,000 people committed suicide in the U.S. in 2016 alone, and said the suicide rate in the U.S. rose by nearly 30 percent from 1999 to 2016.
While the CDC report isn’t surprising, it is sobering. If a disease saw such a spike like we’ve seen with suicides, we would deem it an epidemic. How do we explain the increase? We’ve never been more educated. We have tools of technology our parents could not have dreamed of. We are saturated with entertainment and recreation. Yet more people than ever are orchestrating their own departure. How could this be? And what can we do?
Suicide victims battled life’s rawest contests. They often faced a mental illness or illnesses and felt the peril of mental fatigue. What you and I take for granted, they coveted. Optimism. Hope. Confidence that all would be well, that she would be well. Their clouds had no silver linings, their storms had no rainbows.
If that describes the way you feel, can I urge you to consider one of the great promises of the Bible? The promise begins with this phrase. “Weeping may last through the night” (Psalm 30:5).
Of course, you knew that much. You didn’t need to read the verse to know its truth. Weeping can last through the night. Weeping may last through the night, and the next night and the next.
This is not new news to you.
But this may be: “Joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Despair will not rule the day. Sorrow will not last forever. The clouds may eclipse the sun, but they cannot eliminate it. Night might prolong the dawn, but it cannot defeat it. Morning comes. Not as quickly as we want. Not as dramatically as we desire. But morning comes, and, with it, comes joy. Joy comes!
Joy comes because God comes.
Mary Cushman learned this truth. The financial Depression of the 1930s all but devastated her family. Her husband’s paycheck shrank to eighteen dollars a week. Since he was given to illness, there were many weeks he didn’t earn even that much.
She began to take in laundry and ironing. She dressed her five kids with Salvation Army clothing. At one point the local grocer, to whom they owed fifty dollars, accused her eleven-year-old son of stealing. That was all she could take. She said:
I couldn’t see any hope …I shut off my washing machine, took my little five-year-old girl into the bedroom and plugged up the windows and cracks with paper and rags. I turned on the gas heater we had in the bedroom- and didn’t light it. As I lay down on the bed with my daughter beside me, she said, “Mommy, this is funny, we just got up a little while ago.” But I said, “Never mind, we’ll take a little nap.” Then I closed my eyes, listening to the gas escape from the heater. I shall never forget the smell of that gas…
Suddenly, I heard music. I listened. I had forgotten to turn off the radio in the kitchen. But it didn’t matter now. But the music kept on and presently I heard someone singing an old hymn.
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer
As I listened to the hymn, I realized I had made a terrible and tragic mistake. …I had tried to fight all my terrible battles alone. I jumped up, turned off the gas, opened the door and raised my windows.
She went on to explain how she spent the rest of the day giving thanks to God for the blessings she had forgotten: five healthy children. She promised that she would never be ungrateful. They eventually lost their home, but she never lost her hope. They weathered the Depression. Those five children grew up, married, and had children of their own.
As I look back on that terrible day when I turned on the gas, I thank God over and over that I woke up in time. What joys I would have missed. How many wonderful years I would have forfeited forever… Whenever I hear now of someone who wants to end his life I feel like crying out, “Don’t do it! Don’t”. The blackest moments we live through can only last a little time–and then comes the future.
And you? You’ll be tempted to give up. Please don’t. Open your Bible. Talk to God. Listen for his song. Share about your hurt with someone. Seek help. Place yourself in a position to be found by hope. Weeping comes. But so does joy. Darkness comes, but so does the morning. Sadness comes, but so does hope. Sorrow may have the night, but it cannot have our life.
©Max Lucado, June, 2018
Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1984) 196-198.
Depression: Fighting Dragons
by Jim Burgen from No More Dragons
Being the Hunted
What did Jesus call people who were attacked by dragons, regardless of the righteous way they were conducting their lives? Jesus called these people normal. Jesus made a few promises about what would happen to us, regardless of our faith. Here is what Jesus promised those who love Him the most:
In this world you will have trouble. – John 16:33
Jesus didn’t say, “In this world, there is a slight chance that you will go through hard times.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you don’t have enough faith, you will have trouble.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you go to church, stop cussing, don’t drink too much, and always keep your promises, then you won’t have any trouble.” Instead, Jesus said that trouble will hunt you. Period.
If you are alive and breathing, you will have trouble in this world. Either you will hunt the dragon, or the dragon will hunt you. There is no escaping it.
Jesus had every right to make this statement. Jesus believed all the right things, and He had stronger faith and loved God more than you and I will ever be able to. Still, soon after making this statement, Jesus was arrested and nailed to a cross.
Faith, belief, and love do not buffer or barricade your life from trouble and hardship. In fact, sometimes it feels like having faith and doing the right things can attract trouble.
I want to address the dragon that I most often see hunting the people around me: depression. This includes both the deep blues anyone can feel and the diagnosable imbalance that plagues so many. No one asks for this dragon, but he swallows up many people regardless. This dragon is big, heavy, overwhelming, and he has the potential to crush, suffocate, and swallow you up. This dragon doesn’t create bad days or bad weeks. He creates bad childhoods, bad decades, and bad lives. On and on, day after day, year after year, this dragon causes pain with no relief in sight.
Remember that overwhelmingly sad feeling when you learned that someone you loved died? Remember the guilt and embarrassment you felt after your biggest failure was exposed? Remember facing the biggest problem in your life and thinking that it was impossible to fix? Remember that time, as a little kid, when someone held you under the swimming pool too long, and you thought you were going to drown? Roll all of those emotions into one, carry them around with you every day from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep, and you will begin to understand the dragon of depression.
When you experience the dragon of depression, your entire world is seen only through the lens of sadness, hopelessness, mourning, loss, emptiness, grief, pain, anger, frustration, guilt, and death. Death is always there, looming and lurking: “I can’t live another minute like this. Death has to be better than this. The people around me would be better off if I wasn’t here to hurt them. I can’t do this anymore. This is never going to get any better.”
The dragon of depression is a cyclical prison cell. It’s like a dog chasing its own tail: “I am depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed.”
David, the famous king from the Bible, knew these feelings well:
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims Your name. Who praises You from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. – Psalm 6:2-6
How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death. – Psalm 13:1-3
King David wasn’t alone, and you aren’t either. This might surprise some readers, but Jesus understands what depression feels like. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He experienced the height of His depression:
Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:38-39
If you read Hebrews 4:15, it is clear that Jesus had been tempted in every way that we are, yet He walked through those temptations without sinning. But somewhere along the way, it seems some biblical scholar or translator decided “depression” was no longer included in the long list of ways that Jesus was tempted.
In my opinion, it’s tough to read, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” without concluding that Jesus was struggling with depression. Jesus essentially said, “I’ve been swallowed up to the core of My being with sorrow. The suffocating weight of My sadness is about to crush My life.” Elsewhere, the Bible says this about Jesus’ time in the garden:
Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:44
There is a medical condition (hematidrosis) brought on by extreme emotional anguish, strain, and stress during which the capillaries in the skin rupture, allowing blood to flow out of a person’s sweat pores. So for hours, alone in a dark corner of a remote garden, Jesus fell down, curled up on the ground, cried, and prayed so intensely for deliverance from His circumstances that the blood vessels burst inside His skin. You can call it whatever you want, but to me it looks like emotional depression.
Jesus understood, and still understands, depression.
Weeks before Jesus was in the garden, He came face-to-face with everything I’ve just described.
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. – Mark 5:1-5
Depression can be caused by many different things. In this guy’s case, depression was caused by satanic attack or demonic oppression. The man in this story was possessed by many demons. If you’re anything like me, you immediately think of The Exorcist or some sci-fi movie, but the reality is that, all through the Bible, we read descriptions of battles being fought in the spiritual realm. The New Testament teaches that while a Christian cannot be possessed by Satan or one of his demons, he can be oppressed.
Satan continues to wage war against Christians by attacking or tempting us.
Depression can also be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. That’s one of the reasons King David was depressed. He had just been convicted of adultery and murder, and his child was about to die. He used phrases like, “My bones wasted away… my strength was sapped… Do not forsake me, my God… My heart has turned to wax… my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth… Troubles without number surround me” (Psalm 32:3-4, Psalm 71:18, Psalm22:14–15, Psalm 40:12).
The apostle Peter understood depression after he denied knowing Jesus. After his sin of denying Jesus, Peter wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Judas understood depression after he betrayed Jesus to his death. When the weight and guilt of what he had done finally hit him, Judas decided that committing suicide was the only way out of the belly of the dragon in which he found himself swallowed (Matthew 27:1-5).
Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed, and that’s what Jesus was feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood why He needed to be sacrificed. He even knew the wonderful outcome that would result from His torture and death. Yet even though Jesus knew that the next few days would ultimately become the most wonderful event ever to occur in the history of the universe, the thought of them still caused Him to collapse to the ground, curl up, and cry until blood seeped from His pores.
Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m not talking about body image issues causing someone to become depressed (although that happens often). I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering. More on this in a minute.
Regardless of the cause of depression, one factor remains constant: depression always centers on death and pain.
Depression is about death. The naked guy on the beach in Mark 5 lived in a cemetery. When you feel dead inside, you begin to dwell on the things of death, and eventually that place becomes your home. Depression is also about pain. The man would cry out and cut himself with razorsharp stones.
Depression has many causes, it revolves around death and pain, and it has no easy fixes.
Let’s continue with the story about the naked man on the beach:
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” – Mark 5:6-9
Later in this story, Jesus sends the spirits away and heals the man. That’s when the crowd shows up:
When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. – Mark 5:15
Jesus is bigger, stronger, and Most High over everything.
In the story about the naked man at the beach, the demon of depression recognized and yielded to the authority of Jesus. Jesus is bigger than depression. Whether you personally hunted down your dragon or it stalked and ambushed you, Jesus can set you free again.
Excerpted with permission from No More Dragons: Get Free From Broken Dreams, Lost Hope, Bad Religion, And Other Monsters by Jim Burgen, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2014
In the past few months I’ve published several posts on ministry burnout. Here’s another one that identifies 10 reasons, some of which may surprise you, that you become stressed and in danger of burnout. They are ten of 40 reasons we stress from the book Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray. Along with the reasons for stress Bonnie gives some suggestions to “de-stress” and defend yourself from burnout. The following are excerpts from an article published on iBelieve.com.
10 Surprising Reasons You're Stressed Out (Bold emphasis mine.)
1. You’re good at taking care of others, but bad at filling your own tank.
Why are we so hard on ourselves, when God’s love is gentle? Extend yourself the comfort you want to give others. How can you fill other’s needs, if your tank is empty?
Soul Care Tip: Prioritize enjoying what brings you joy. Take a walk outside today. Let God touch you.
Don’t think about it. Just put on your shoes and go. You’ll return refreshed. Studies show just 10 minutes outside refreshes and helps with anxiety — depression in school, work, and everyday life.
We may feel selfish prioritizing filling our tanks. Yet, God says we can only comfort others, with the comfort we first receive ourselves!
2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT2) 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.
2. You are good at problem solving, but what you need is rest.
Most problems that stress us can’t be solved in a day. We are such strong thinkers, but it leads us to easily ruminate, which means to obsess about situations or relationships, leaving us feeling depressed or anxious. One way to reduce rumination is by enjoying activities that foster positive thoughts.
Soul Care Tip: Listen to a worship song.
Songs give us a simple way to practice the presence of God. Music is used in therapy to uncover hidden emotional responses in children, helping them find words to express themselves. It’s not just for children. Music helps us pray without words. It’s shown to bring calm and alleviates pain. When you feel too stressed to pray, put on a favorite worship song and let God love on you.
Psalm 40:3 (NLT2) He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.
3. You are good at listening to others, but find it hard to share your hardships.
We don’t want to bother others. But, what we doubt is whether we’re worth loving. Notice how you feel better after talking to someone about your troubles — even if the problem hasn’t been fixed?
Soul Care Tip: Call a grace-filled friend to have coffee.
T ell your friend about both your hopes and anxieties. Research shows depression is eased, anxiety is reduced, and people bounce back sooner (resiliency) when people share their stories and talk about how they feel when events impact them (rather than just describing what happens).
Galatians 6:2 (NLT2) Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
4. You’re busy getting things done, but you forget to breathe.
Did you know you hold your breath when you’re stressed? Shallow breathing creates tension in your body, raises your blood pressure, and makes your muscles ache with tension and pain.
Soul Care Tip: Pray a Breath Prayer
The minute we stress is a special opportunity to invite Jesus into our day and be refreshed. A powerful, simple way is to pray a breath prayer. It’s a contemplative prayer practiced by the early church to experience God’s peace and “pray without ceasing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT2) Never stop praying.
An example of a breath prayer:
Inhale and whisper the name of God you connect with--“Good morning, Jesus.”
5. You zone out on social media, but you’re actually stressing yourself out.
Research shows the more time people spent on Facebook, Instagram and social media, the more they felt dissatisfied, depressed, or anxious. People avoid sharing negative feelings, so what you see isn’t real, but tweaked.
Soul Care Tip: Take a digital break. Enjoy doing something that makes you smile!
Research found that experiences make people happier and give you a greater sense of vitality— “feeling alive.” Happiness enjoyed during the experience carried lasting benefits. Simply by recalling the memory sparked happy brain activity, elevating good mood.
Exhale and whisper how you feel or a request--“I love you” or “Help me today.”
6. You’re reading before bedtime to relax, but still can’t fall asleep.
Reading an e-book? The blue light from your digital devices wakes your brain up to think it’s daytime!
Soul Care Tip: Read a printed book.
Research shows reading a printed book (it helps more than reading on your tablet) is the best way to relax, and even six minutes can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds, according to research by Sussex University. Snuggling up with a good book returns tranquility to your brain and body as you get lost in a story and unplug from constantly multitasking during the day, which is exhausting.
Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT2) For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
7. You pray about what you can do for God, rather than how your heart is doing: your desires, worries and fears.
We often put our worries to the side when we pray. But, the most powerful prayer comes from intimacy, emotional honesty and letting God love you.
Soul Care Tip: Write a letter to Jesus. Confide in the One who calls you beloved.
Grab a piece of paper and start writing about what’s important to you, how you’re feeling, and your worries. You’ll feel better!
Studies show you don’t have to “keep a journal” to reap the benefits of writing. Research shows just 15 minutes of expressive writing makes a difference, leading to behavioral changes and improving happiness.
1 Peter 5:7 (NLT2)7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
8. You are always planning and thinking ahead, but experiencing God’s grace comes only one day at a time.
Our culture trains us to plan ahead. But, when it comes to parenting, marriage, and friendships, people are not plans. Hearts are more like gardens to nurture with grace. One day a time. We plant seeds and fruit grows slowly, nurtured with faith and patience, instead of stress and coercion.
Soul Care Tip: Pray this prayer for grace:
Hold onto me, God. Thank you for never letting me go.
Psalm 143:8 (NLT2) Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.
Whatever’s happening this week, hold onto God’s hand. He’s not letting go of you. He’s walking into every situation you’re facing, with you.
Ask for the strength to do what you must do, just for this one next step. Trust He will provide what comes next. Jesus will not abandon you. You are His beloved.
9. Your strengths are being reliable and responsible, but you find it difficult to ask for help.
Soul Care Tip: Pray this prayer for help:
Help me, Jesus.Thank you for the gentle ways you love me.
Psalm 86:11-13 (NLT2)11 Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever,13 for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death.
Psalm 18:35-36 (NLT2)35 You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great.36 You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.
We may not know the way but the God who loves you not only knows the way – He intimately knows your way. No matter what, He will lead you all the way.
10. You are good at performing, but God wants your heart, more than your work. God sees what your soul needs is to be known and loved.
We stress when we hide our hearts and go into survival mode, going through our checklists and ignoring what we need most: love.
Soul Care Tip: Pray this prayer for courage:
I’m worried about too many things.
Give me the courage to lay down burdens You never intended me to own.
Give me the courage to choose what’s better for me today— to simply rest.
I choose You.
Deuteronomy 33:1-2 (NLT2)1 This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the people of Israel before his death:2 “The LORD came from Mount Sinai and dawned upon us from Mount Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran and came from Meribah-kadesh with flaming fire at his right hand.
Don’t wait until your life is stress-free before spending time on what really matters to God: loving your heart. Let Jesus hold you and your worries together so you can take a break and choose what’s better: feeding your soul. Be renewed. Be loved.
Bonnie Gray is the author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace and Whispers of Rest. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit her at thebonniegray.com.
This is another in the Ministry Burnout series, Burnout.
This post has nothing to do with the Sabbath Day as the day the church gathers for worship. I wrote a post a long time ago that shows that is doesn’t matter when we worship (Saturday of Sunday). It could be Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday...you get the point. The important thing is that we worship.
The Commandment about the Sabbath Day says as much about rest as it does anything else, in fact this Commandment is the one with the most written about it. This Commandment tells the Israelites to take a day off.
The Hebrew word shabbāt, translated in English as Sabbath means intermission. It is from a root word, shābat, that means, to repose, i.e. desist from exertion; cease, celebrate, cause; rest, rid, still, take away. According to this, not resting is a sin. It doesn’t matter if your day of rest is Saturday or Sunday or any other day.
The Bible calls those who will not work lazy, Proverbs is full of sayings about being lazy and the circumstances from it.
Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son. Proverbs 10:4-5 NIV
Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry. Proverbs 19:15 NIV
The Bible calls those who will not rest disobedient.
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 NIV
In addition to a Sabbath Day God also commanded a full Sabbath year every seventh year. In the Sabbath Year the land was able to rest from sowing and reaping so that the ground could replenish itself of nutrients.
The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord . For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord . Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten. Leviticus 25:1-7 NIV
This post is not about a day or a year.but about shabbāt, an intermission, a time of rest for recovery and regeneration.
The Sabbath is a defense against ministry burnout.
6 Reasons to Keep the Sabbath
by Stephanie Hertzenberg
Saving Sunday for God can help you more than you know.
The seventh day is supposed to be kept holy. The Bible makes it clear that the Sabbath is meant to be a day of rest and prayer. The only work meant to be done is spiritual work through means such as prayer. Most people are aware of this fact, and many are aware that this is where the tradition of a non-working weekend originates. Few people, however, actually avoid work on the Sabbath. They may not go in to the office, but they still do plenty of work. They go to the grocery store or clean the house or pay the bills. This pseudo-rest, however, is not what the Bible meant by “keep the Sabbath holy.”
The Sabbath is meant to truly be a day of rest. It is meant to be a day without work that is not immediately and overwhelmingly necessary. Few people live their lives with a true Sabbath, however, keeping the Sabbath has multiple benefits even in the modern era. Truly observing the Sabbath will allow you to live a more Biblical life. It also has some surprising benefits in this fast paced modern world. Here are six reasons to keep the Sabbath in today’s world.
1. It lets you focus on God instead of squeezing Him into a busy schedule.
If you are like most people, you have a pretty busy schedule. You likely work long hours during the day and try to fit necessities such as grocery shopping, cleaning the house and doing laundry into a few hours after you get home from your job. In those same hours, you are trying to cook dinner, spend time with friends or family and relax a little. Given how little time you have during the week, your weekends are likely packed as well as you try to take advantage of those two work-free days. As a result, God is often put on the backburner and squeezed into the few free moments that crop up between cooking dinner and driving the kids to soccer practice. Keeping the Sabbath allows you to make God the focus of an entire day rather than trying to fit Him in around endless errands and chores that somehow seem more important in the moment.
2. It is good to let your brain and body rest.
People are talking more and more about the importance of taking a break both physically and emotionally. Staying on the go or in “work mode” all the time is hard on a person. When you keep the Sabbath, however, you get an honest break. There is no work to do and no errands to run. There is nothing that you are supposed to be doing but focusing on God. Your mind and body can truly rest for the day instead of worrying about all the things you feel you “should” be doing instead. When you keep the Sabbath, your spirit is nurtured while your body and mind get a much needed break.
3. It can help you reconnect with friends and family.
For all the time and energy most people spend trying to connect with their friends and family, some people actually get very little return on that investment. They race from meeting with one friend to having dinner with a family member. They spend half the time they are with one person keeping an eye on the clock so that they are not late for a meeting with a different friend. This means that they never really get to connect with their friends and family. Instead, they are always watching the clock.
Keeping the Sabbath means that there is nothing to do but connect with God and those close to you. You have no errands to run or work to do, so you can enjoy the time you spend with your friends and family. There is nothing else to distract you or draw your attention away from those important bonds.
4. You might be more focused during week.
How much time do you think you waste in a week? If you are like most people, your answer will probably be “not much.” If you really think about it though, you actually likely waste a great deal of time each day. You spend 10 minutes after breakfast scrolling through Facebook. You have to stay half an hour extra at work to get your report written because you took an extra-long lunch hour that involved playing several levels of mahjong on your computer. You watched half an episode of a reality TV show even though you had no interest in it. This all adds up to a lot of wasted time, much of which people try to make up on weekends. When you keep the Sabbath, though, you have six days with which to get things done, not seven. This forces you to be more productive during the week and really use your time wisely. It is a tricky adjustment to make, but it will make you more.
5. It forces you to slow down.
If you are like most people, you are always on the go. You are running from work to various errands during the week, and even your “relaxing” weekends are jam packed with things to do. You are running from lunch with a friend to Bible study to dinner with your parents. If you have children, you are likely facilitating them in doing the same thing. You are probably driving them from piano practice to a soccer game and then to a friend’s house for a sleep over that night. From dawn until dusk, you are constantly on the go. As a result of this daily chaos, many people forget the value of stillness. Keeping the Sabbath forces a person to be still and to rest. You have to slow down, stop and take a breath. While many people would see this as wasted time, such moments of stillness are essential to avoiding burnout and mental or spiritual exhaustion.
6. You are reintroduced to the idea of self-imposed limits.
Most of the limits you probably deal with in your daily life are externally imposed. You cannot get anything else done in one day because there are not enough hours. You cannot buy anything else because you cannot spend any more money. Even entertainment has become more or less limitless. Binge watching TV shows, for example, has become popular because no one enforces self-imposed limitations. Instead, you watch the show until you have finished it.
Keeping the Sabbath is not something that is an externally imposed limit. There is no one standing outside your door telling you “no, you cannot go do work today.” You have to decide for yourself that you will keep the Sabbath, and you are responsible for enforcing it in your own life. Regaining this sort of self-control will only aid you in other areas of your life. It will also help you remember that there can be too much of a good thing.
Keeping the Sabbath can do more than keep you living a more purely Biblical life. It can help your emotional and mental health as well as your soul. It can help you reconnect with family and friends as well as with God. It can help you stay calm and even help you be more productive during the week.
The idea of giving up a full day is frightening, but the results are worth it. So go mark off this Sunday on your calendar, and tell those chores and errands that they will have to wait until another day. You have an all-day appointment with God.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.