The content of this post was taken from an article at Preaching.com Leading The Church Proclaiming The Word written by contributor David Murray who is a pastor and a professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology.
The Least Preached Subject
In a church of 100 people, 20 people will likely experience depression or an anxiety disorder at some stage in their life. If you are in a church of that size, there are probably 5-10 people struggling with depression right now. If you add in the family, friends, and employers of sufferers, something approaching 25% of an average congregation will be impacted to some degree. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the US among people aged 15-44, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in the same age group.
But when was the last time you preached or heard a sermon on depression, or any mental health issue for that matter? Given its prevalence, why is it so rarely even mentioned?
One reason is that there is so much ignorance and misunderstanding around mental health issues. Many pastors simply do not feel equipped to address the subject. Their seminaries did not train them and they have not pursued further training to help them understand and minister to people with such problems.
Many pastors are also unaware of just how common the problem is. Perhaps fearing a lack of sympathy or understanding, Christians with depression will often seek help from outside the church. The result is that there can be many depressed people in a church but the pastor does not know about it.
Other pastors may have decided that it’s entirely a medical problem and therefore something to be left to the medical profession. For these and other reasons, depression is rarely addressed in sermons and the effect is that depressed people feel isolated and ignored, exacerbating the problem.
But even worse than neglecting the subject is insensitive preaching that unintentionally makes the suffering even worse. From counseling depressed Christians, I’ve discovered that these types of sermon actually harm more than help:
– Sermons that over-stress the moral evils of the day. They are anxious enough through hearing the daily news without every church service ramping up the “we’re doomed” rhetoric. A steady diet of gloomy sermons, or graphic descriptions of violence, persecution, and other moral evils, is not going to lift up the head or heart of the cast down.
– Sermons that extol constant happiness as the only valid and virtuous Christian experience. The deep pain of depression is multiplied when a depressed person is repeatedly told that all sadness is a sin.
– Sermons that question the faith of anyone who doubts. A lack of assurance is not necessarily a lack of faith. Believers who hang on to God despite feeling no assurance sometimes have the greatest faith.
– Sermons that demand, demand, and demand. The depressed person already feels like an inadequate failure. To be regularly berated for not doing this ministry, or failing to engage in that Christian service, only crushes what’s left of their spirit.
I’m not suggesting that these themes should never be preached but I am calling preachers for greater sensitivity towards the depressed and anxious in their sermons.
If that’s what harms, what kind of sermons can help depressed people? One of the simplest and best things a preacher can do is preach sermons that at least mention depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional disorders. Just to have such suffering publicly acknowledged can minister deeply to sufferers. It can help them to come out of the shadows and into the open, to sense that this is a safe place to share, and to believe that it’s okay not to be okay. It can also be helpful for the preacher to mention statistics that show how common the problem is, how this is a normal abnormality in an abnormal world.
The preacher may also demonstrate from the Bible that true believers often suffer with depression (e.g. Elijah, Jeremiah, David, Job). The Psalms are an excellent vehicle for showing believers the dark depths that believers can fall into
Psalm 88:1-18 (NKJV) 1 O LORD, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You.2 Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry.3 For my soul is full of troubles, And my life draws near to the grave.4 I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man who has no strength,5 Adrift among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, And who are cut off from Your hand.6 You have laid me in the lowest pit, In darkness, in the depths.7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah
8 You have put away my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an abomination to them; I am shut up, and I cannot get out;9 My eye wastes away because of affliction. LORD, I have called daily upon You; I have stretched out my hands to You.10 Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? Selah
11 Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction?12 Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?13 But to You I have cried out, O LORD, And in the morning my prayer comes before You.14 LORD, why do You cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?15 I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth; I suffer Your terrors; I am distraught.16 Your fierce wrath has gone over me; Your terrors have cut me off.17 They came around me all day long like water; They engulfed me altogether.
18 Loved one and friend You have put far from me, And my acquaintances into darkness.
And also give hope of recovery showing that there is a way out.
Psalm 77:1-20 (NKJV) 1 I cried out to God with my voice-- To God with my voice; And He gave ear to me.2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted.3 I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah
4 You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.5 I have considered the days of old, The years of ancient times.6 I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search.7 Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more?8 Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore?9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah
10 And I said, "This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High."11 I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.12 I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds.13 Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God?14 You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples.15 You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16 The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled.17 The clouds poured out water; The skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about.18 The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; The lightnings lit up the world; The earth trembled and shook.19 Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, And Your footsteps were not known.20 You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Sermons on Job should not just focus on the passages of triumph but also the passages of despair. Idealism must be tempered with realism. Other examples from throughout church history might also be added. For example, even the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon endured long periods of depression.
Sermons should also promote a holistic approach to mental health struggles. It’s very easy for preachers to take a simplistic approach – it’s all physical, or it’s all spiritual, or it’s all cognitive, etc. However, it’s very rarely that simple. There’s usually a complex mix of issues – the physical, the situational, the relational, the financial, the spiritual, the emotional, the mental, etc. This is true not just in terms of tracing causes but also in suggesting cures. One size does not fit all. Those relying on just meds should be encouraged to explore other dimensions of the problem. Same with those who are fixated exclusively on finding a sin to repent of.
Preachers with a tendency to preach on the more subjective side of Christian life should remember that depressed people need to focus most on the objective facts of Christianity, the historic doctrines of the faith. Facts first and feelings follow. There’s a place for careful self-examination, but remember Robert Murray McCheyne’s rule: “For every look inside, take ten looks to Christ.”
And that really brings me to the best way to preach to the depressed, and that’s to preach Christ. Preach his suffering and sympathizing humanity. Preach his gentle and tender dealings with trembling and timid sinners. Preach his gracious and merciful words. Preach his beautiful meekness. Preach his miracles to demonstrate his power to heal. Preach his finished work on Calvary. Preach his offer of rest to the weary. Preach the power of his resurrection-life. Preach his precious promise: “A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench” (Isa. 42:3)
Preach Christ! Preach him winningly and winsomely. Preach him near and ready to help. Preach him from the heart to the heart. Preach him again, and again, and again. Until the day dawn and the shadows flee away.
The most important relationship that you can have is the one between you and God through Jesus.
II Corinthians 6:18 NKJV “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”
It's your the most important relationship because it's eternal. The status of that relationship determines your eternal destiny. Will you spend it in the presence of God where is fullness of joy.
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.
Away from His presence where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:37-43 NKJV He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
The most damaging enemy is not the person who hates you but the person who tempts to steal or belittle your relationships with God and family.
I Corinthians 15:33 NKJV Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
Proverbs 14:7 NKJV Go from the presence of a foolish man, When you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.
That's exactly what sin and wrong relationships do...take you away from God, family, and God's purpose for your life. We cannot afford to indulge in foolishness or foolish relationships...it will always be costly. It may cost us today or many years later. Few things in life are as costly to us as foolish relationships.
II Corinthians 6:14-15 NKJV Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
My past is littered with wrong and foolish relationships that resulted in sin and foolish decisions. Although God, and those who were negatively affected, have forgiven me, the consequences remain and some of them will remain until I am with the Lord.
I once heard a saying, "Show me your 5 closest relationships and I'll show you your future." We truly become similar to the company we keep so it is very wise to make sure that the people we are closest to are an encouragement to us in regards to God, our family, and God's life purpose for us.
Proverbs 13:20 NKJV He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.
Ask God for wisdom and discernment in your relationships. Ask Him to mightily grow and bless your most vital relationships: Him, your spouse and children, your family, friends, and your church family.
Ephesians 6:2-3 NKJV “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
Hebrews 13:4 NKJV Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Ask Him to guide and direct all of your relationships as well as your life purpose.
He truly cares about all of our relationships...especially the ones He purposely chose to be life-long such as with Him and family.
Be a bright witness to everyone around you and be kind to everyone.
Encourage your loved ones to establish and have good relationships with their most vital relationships: God, spouse, children, family, friends, and fellow Christians.
Editor's Note:. Some Content from YouVersion Reading Plan Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Heartbreak by Kim Niles and Grief Bites
Doubt and fear usually go hand in hand.
Both are evidences of a lack of trust and a lack of love.
When doubt and fear creep in, it is a signal to ask ourselves if we are failing to trust God...or are we failing to truly love Him? Or are we failing to allow His love to be made perfect in our lives?
Love is made perfect in God. We do not have to doubt or fear the past, present, or future.
1 John 4:17-18 (NKJV)17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
He truly makes all things work together for our good if we love Him and seek His heart.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
We serve an incredible, amazing, and powerful God...a God who cares so much that He walks with us every second of the day. He does not sleep and He never takes a break.
He never leaves us or forsakes us. He is never fickle.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
He truly loves us so very much and He cares about every detail of our lives...nothing is excluded. We serve an all-inclusive God!
When we doubt, we are choosing to believe that God doesn't have our best interests at heart. We are doubting His incredible love for us.
Do you realize How great His love is for you? His love is deeper than the depths of the sea...wider than the entire world...and higher than the heavens!
Psalm 36:5-9 (NKJV)5 Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.6 Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast.7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.8 They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.9 For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.
He adores you so much more than you could ever comprehend!
You no longer need to doubt or be afraid. The more you fall in love with God, the less you will fear, worry, or doubt. Love is the antidote. Taste and see that the Lord IS good! His love is the best!
Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
What doubts, worries, and fears do you need to share with God today? I encourage you to place your fears, worries, and doubts...and every situation that has broken your heart or spirit...and place all of it at God's feet.
Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV)14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Release ALL of it to Him today!
Psalm 121:3-5 (NKJV)3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.5 The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
Fall into His arms and choose to trust Him!
Doubt is a difficult, and miserable, place to be...and it slowly destroys our fellowship with God.
Spiritually, it is a "silent killer" of our soul.
Mark 9:23-24 NIV “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Doubt has many origins. It can be a coping mechanism due to not understanding how to handle a tough situation...a desperate silent cry for help after a terrible experience has happened in life...or an arrogant attitude of pride that believes God owes us more.
We may doubt that God would ever want to truly work in our lives or through a tough situation we are going through...after all, who are we compared to God?
And what about the times we contribute to the tough situation we are facing due to unwise past decisions we have made? Does God just leave us stuck with our consequences with no mercy or forgiveness in sight? Not at all.
It is understandable to have feelings of doubt after a terrible loss has taken place. It takes time to come to terms with a situation that has broken your heart or impacted your life.
What about tough times where an unfair loss takes place through no fault of our own?
God works in..and through..every situation we face. Nothing takes God by surprise. He can redeem any circumstance by causing good to come from it.
Many times, He shows His mercy as He allows us to help others who later go through a similar grief experience or loss. He never wastes a trial, heartache, or hurt...as long as we submit our heartaches and doubts to Him.
In circumstances where something bad happens...God is so patient with us. He knows it is going to take a toll on us...and He is the answer to restoring our hope and faith.
When you take refuge in Him, He is faithful to guide you through the doubt(s) you have so you can come back to a place of complete trust.
In times when we are self-saturated and upset that God didn't do exactly what we thought was best, I believe that is directly challenging God.
We want what we want...and are upset that God doesn't bend to our plans. This kind of doubt is eventually lethal to our relationship with God...and many times, it can affect our other relationships too. In these times, we must quickly humble ourselves and repent.
It is imperative to understand that God has a plan for each and every situation or heartache we experience or go through.
If God allows us to go through a trying situation that attempts to make us doubt, or a situation that stretches us, we can trust that He has plans to increase the flexibility of ways He can use us for His glory in the future.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
It is never fun to go through tough life events, and they can truly attempt to knock us out. Life challenges can tempt us to be bitter towards God.
We must realize and embrace the truth that God genuinely wants what is best for us, and doubt attempts to lead us away from God's best.
God sees the "big picture" when we cannot. When tempted to doubt, use that as a signal to have a genuine heart-to-heart talk with God. He truly works out every situation we face for the greater good.
Romans 8:28 NIV And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Today, ask God to take total control of your life. Completely give Him "you". Pour your heart out to Him...share with Him all your doubts, hurts, worries, frustrations, disappointments, fears, and failures. Ask Him to grant you wisdom and to help you to see the greater purpose for your doubt and circumstances.
James 1:2-5 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. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Ask Him to resolve any bitterness in your heart towards Him, others, or any situation.
Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Tell Him you would like to repent of your doubt and begin trusting Him today.
He has a heart filled with love and mercy for you!
James 1:12 NIV Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Deuteronomy chapter 8 gives us thirteen reasons that God allows us to go through trials, especially long ones:
Deuteronomy 8:1-11 NIV Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord . Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. (Emphasis mine)
Trials are difficult but they really show us what we are made of. They reveal the true condition of our hearts, what we think, and what we believe. They ultimately reveal what we truly think about God.
We are running a race and the goal is to condition our spiritual hearts. It's easy to fall down...and the enemy stops at nothing to trip you up.
What if we are going through a life challenge right now...and we have failed miserably so far to love God and be loyal to Him?
Talk to Him about it right now and ask Him for His forgiveness. His mercies are new every morning and He is so faithful!
Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The Bible says if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9 NIV If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Life may be very tough today but you serve a God who is in full control of all of your tomorrows. Go through this necessary journey with God to become better suited to love and serve Him...and in the process, He will bring you to a better place. There is a great prize at the end of the race of life, press forward with all your might!
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Revelation 21:1-4 NIV Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Editor's Note: Some content from YouVerson Reading Plan “Grief Bites:Finding Treasure in Hardship” by Kim Niles. All scripture references added by blog publisher.
In life, we all certainly like mountaintop experiences better than valleys — the air is clean, the sun is shining, and the view is amazing. But the truth is, we’re going to go through valleys. It’s inevitable
There is a familiar feeling that many who are going through grief (or loss) may feel...yet many do not have the ability to label it.
It is a feeling that envelops a grieving heart, but is so subtle that many do not even realize how it is planting itself deeply down into the roots of their soul.
When I went through a tough grief experience, I couldn't figure out why I was able to still have a strong hunger for God, His Will, and His ways...yet I couldn't fully enjoy God or His Word.
I felt distracted every time I prayed or read my Bible.
As I prayed to God, seeking to conquer the distracting and stagnant apathy I felt, He revealed to me that my root problem wasn't distraction...and it wasn't apathy. It wasn't a lack of focus...or the inability to sit still either.
My root problem was doubt.
I didn't doubt God's goodness. I knew in my heart that He IS good. Even though I have been through a lot of loss, He has always given me so much grace to help me to see His goodness every single day.
Nahum 1:7 (NLT2)7 The LORD is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.
I didn't doubt God's love...I know He IS love and all love comes from Him.
Anyone at anytime can look around and see amazing evidences of His astounding great love.
1 John 4:7-8 (NLT2)7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God revealed to my heart that I doubted not His ABILITY to work in my life...but His WILLINGNESS to act and work in my circumstances.
I doubted not what God COULD do...but what He WOULD do.
Mark 9:24 (NLT2)24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
We cannot afford to trust our hearts, our mere thoughts, or our feelings during times of doubt...we must test our thoughts and feelings, and train our hearts to trust God to overcome doubt.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 (NLT2)20 Do not scoff at prophecies,21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT2)9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?
Doubt is a very unpopular word in the Christian community. Most Christians would be afraid to admit any form of doubt they may have due to feeling guilty for having thoughts of doubt, or due to the judgment of others.
When doubt surfaces, many consider it as a lack of faith...or a lack of believing God and His Word...so many struggle silently. Through their silent struggle, they can become stagnant in their walk with God.
It is imperative to know how to handle our doubt(s) so we can experience the rich relationship with God we are fully capable of having.
Truly think about the doubts you have today.
Are you doubting that God can:
I have doubted God in some situations...and not even have known or realized it at the time.
There are many reasons we doubt.
Many doubt God cares. But did you know that God actually bends down from Heaven to hear our prayers, heartaches, concerns, and even our questions?
Psalm 17:6 (NLT2)6 I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray.
Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT2)7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
He's so good! He doesn't have to bend down to hear us, but out of His great love, He willingly chooses to. Did you know that God has collected every tear you've ever cried and written every heartache you've ever experienced in a ledger?
Psalm 56:8 (NLT2)8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
God truly cares about each and every heartache and heartfelt question or request we have. He cares about each of us and every situation we face...past, present, and future.
If you feel stale in your relationship with God, doubt may be the culprit.
Do you wonder how God handles doubters? In scripture, God shows a loving example of mercy to the most famous doubter, Thomas.
John 20:24-29 (NLT2)24 One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came.25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said.27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Today, truly think about and label your doubt. Ask God to reveal any doubt(s) you hold in your heart. Be completely honest and transparent. The answer(s) revealed just might surprise you.
Choose today, like Thomas, to take your doubts to God and place your doubts in His hands. He already knows what is in your heart so be honest. The reward truly is a closer relationship with Him!
Editor’s Note: Content from YouVersion Reading Plan Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed by K.B.H. Niles. Visit Grief Bites website here
If you have followed my blog posts over the past six months you know that I have published post after post on Christians and depression, anxiety, worry, and suicide. It’s my belief that there is an epidemic of behavioral, and mental health issues in the church that we a not addressing as I believe God would have us to do. The church has not treated behavioral and mental health as it has other illness. For some reason the church considers it okay to talk about and to seek professional help, along with prayer, for cancer, diabetes, hypertension, pneumonia, flu, and even the common cold. We almost never say that the reason for these illnesses is a lack of faith or trust in God.
At the same time when someone comes to us saying that they are anxious, stressed, depressed, or “God forbid” feeling suicidal, we point them to scripture and telling them that if “you really, really, believe you will not or can’t be anxious, or depressed, or considering suicide, so just pray and claim the promises of God.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
I Corinthians 10:13 NKJV No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
The church has a problem talking about depression because we somehow believe that Christians should not get depressed and talking about it can be uncomfortable because we don’t know a lot about it.
Because there has been a prohibition of talking about certain things or not expressing our feelings when we are hurting in certain areas is like “putting lipstick on a pi”, so to speak. We are masking how we sometimes hurt so we don’t get help. Some old time preachers and old time mothers talked about the church being a hospital... well if you can’t talk about your sickness what kind of hospital is it. Is it only one that deals with the common cold or a stubbed toe and not anxiety, depression, or suicide?
If you can’t bring your deepest problems to the church because you are afraid of what others may say where people have to pretend that “..there lives are picture-perfect”. There are two problems that result. 1) the issues or problems will sooner or later come out and either they will result ns gossip or the leadership will tell them not to come back until the problem is handled or 2) then can’t take the pressure of trying to put up a false face for the church so they drop out.
“When we meet Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we do not escape the effects of sin --whether that’s our own sin of other people’s sin or simply the broken world we live in. Church is the place where we need to go for healing not the place to pretend that we’re perfect. It shouldn’t be the place we run from when we feel overwhelmed it should be the place we run to. That is where Jesus will meet us and change us.,
It is true that prayer and reading and claiming the promises of God can help in relieving anxiety, or easing thoughts of suicide but to make those statements without listening to the anxious or the suicidal can cause them, if the symptoms don’t ease right away, to believe that they somehow don’t have the right kind of relationship with God and if the church can’t help why bother. The result can be desperation causing people to leave the church and in the worst cases suicide.
The following is an article from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention website.
Depression, anxiety, and the church: A pastor’s wife tells her story of hope
By Tiffany Marshall Leigh Ann Marshall
Since the garden, our world has been thoroughly and profoundly broken from the introduction of sin. This brokenness affects every part of our lives, from who we are, how we act, how we work, and how we relate to one another, to natural disasters and physical illness. As evangelicals, we are quick to see this universal bodily brokenness in cancer and heart disease, but when we approach mental illness, often our first response is to assume a lack of faith or inward transformation of the gospel. Why is this?
My family is no stranger to mental illness. Genetics have certainly played a huge role as three generations of my family, including myself, have been affected by depression and anxiety. Out of all of us affected, my mom's depression and anxiety has certainly been the most severe, particularly in the past few years. What has made this particularly hard is that she is a pastor's wife.
More than 18 percent of Americans struggle with depression and anxiety, but the stigma and shame still holds strong in the church and even stronger for those who hold roles in ministry. I recently sent her a few questions in hopes her story will encourage you or someone you know walking a similar journey.
Tiffany Marshall: When did you first start struggling with depression and anxiety?
Leigh Ann Marshall: I have struggled with diagnosed clinical depression for almost 30 years. The first time I sought professional help was in the early 1990s.
TM: What have been some of the factors that have amplified your depression and anxiety in different seasons of your life?
LAM: I was sexually abused by an older teenage boy when I was a child. I suppressed the abuse until I was a young adult. I believe this was the root of my anxiety and depression. My depression was managed for many years on low dose depression medications under the supervision of doctors. Over the past few years, there was an accumulation of factors that caused my anxiety and depression to resurface more severe than ever. We moved twice to two different states in a period of 13 months. My husband’s pastoral job changed twice in that period of time. In addition to that, I began to lose a large business that I had built from the ground up for over 19 years thinking it would be part of our retirement plan. I also went through a very severe physical illness during that 13-month period of time.
TM: How was this most recent season of depression and anxiety unique? What brought it about?
LAM: In November 2014, I spent 19 days in an ICU for sepsis, a very severe illness that more times than not, causes one to lose their life. Almost every major system in my body was shutting down due to an infection from a minor surgery for kidney stones. I ended up being on a ventilator for eight of the 19 days. Rehabilitation, including learning to walk again, took several months.
Just as I was getting physically stronger, my husband was called to another church, and we moved once again. My business began to decline even more rapidly as I was not able to work to keep things moving in a positive direction. I started to feel like a failure and was not sure how to handle the rapid decline of something I had put blood, sweat, and tears into for 19 years. I also felt like a failure as a pastor’s wife. I have always known the importance of being a helpmate for my husband, but it was all I could do to get to church, and then once I was there, I found it very difficult to engage with people.
Very soon, I began to slide into a deep depression that ultimately led to my decision in early 2017 that it would be better for everyone if I simply took my life. By God’s grace, I was in counseling and revealed this plan to my counselor. Thankfully my husband took this seriously and checked me into a facility for a week to get the help I needed. It was while I was in this facility that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The doctor informed me an illness as severe as my sepsis, coupled with a lengthy stay in ICU, could produce PTSD. I slowly began recovering as my doctor discovered my medications were out of balance and found the right medications for me.
TM: What has helped you out of this most recent bout of serious depression?
LAM: As someone who has battled anxiety and depression for almost all of my adult life, anxiety and depression are things I will most likely always battle with at some level. The factors that contribute to my illness are several. There are chemical imbalances (physical), as well as emotional and spiritual factors. I know, therefore, that I must battle the struggle on several fronts.
As I have mentioned, getting my medications balanced and accurate was a big step in the right direction. I am grateful God directed my steps to get me to the doctor who is right for me. He does an amazing job of listening to me and keeping my medications where they need to be.
I also continue to see a Christian counselor. I believe this is important because over a lifetime of handling stress in an unhealthy way, he has helped me see other ways of dealing with difficult situations in a healthy way.
My family (especially my husband) have been supportive of me as I have walked through this. It is important for those you love to see clinical anxiety and depression as an illness. If I had any other chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, people would understand it has to be treated. In the same way, people must understand mental illness is a very real disease. My family has supported me in that way.
I would certainly not want to leave out the spiritual aspect of this battle. Satan wants to destroy us. He will use any and all tactics to see us taken down. This certainly includes the battle of the mind. It has been important for me to continue to press in to God and my walk with him. I have Scripture and words to some of my favorite worship songs around my home. I see them everywhere I go. They remind me of where my real strength lies. When I am weak, I know God is shown to be strong.
TM: How did your role as a pastor's wife make this recent season harder? Why do you think that is?
LAM: When you are a pastor’s wife, you want to be strong around others. Expectations on pastors can be unrealistic. I was afraid if people in our church found out what I was really going through, they might think I was not a strong Christian or my faith was weak. We had not been at our current church long before the severe season of anxiety and depression set in. “What would others think if they knew their pastor’s wife was contemplating suicide?” I felt trapped with no place to turn for help.
TM: What can the church do to help church members affected by mental illness? (Personally or a loved one)
LAM: We must get past the stigma that somehow mental illness is a taboo subject. There are people sitting in our pews every week that are hurting and afraid to admit it or seek help. If we can bring mental illness into the light in our congregations, this will go a long way toward helping those who think they are the only ones or that other Christians will not understand.
We must educate our people. Our church has a strong partnership with a counseling ministry in our area. We lean on the professionals in this ministry to help educate our people on the real causes of mental illness as well as giving them help.
My husband recently preached a series of messages on discouragement and depression. With God’s leading, I shared my story on a Sunday morning as he completed the series. As hard as this was, it has opened healthy dialogue among our people. Many have reached out to me for help. They now know if the pastor’s wife can publicly share about her struggle, this is a safe place to go with their struggles.
We encouraged people to not ignore symptoms in the lives of those they love. They may just need someone who cares to reach out to them and keep gently nudging them until they get the help they need.
Because of the overwhelming response to my story, we are looking at ways to further educate our people and keep this conversation alive in our church. We want to be seen as a safe place that offers the real hope only found in Jesus Christ.
This has been such a hard season for my family, but we have also seen God’s grace so clearly. The Lord has used this to bring our family closer together, and it has made each one of us more thankful for the time we have together. We have a common faith in Christ that has helped us through this season, recognizing the broken, giving grace to each other when needed, and ultimately trusting in his sovereign and good purposes on the hard days. I know there are many other families out there that are walking through similar seasons without the hope of the gospel, and I pray the church rises up to meet them with good news in their moments of need.
Editor's Note: The following prayer is from the "Suicidal Thoughts" presentation to the Church of Divine Guidance Thursday Night Prayer Line.
“Father, in the name of Jesus, I come before You, confessing my need for You, and crying out to you from the bottom of my heart. Lord, You’ve said that you are near to those whose hearts are breaking and that you give grace to the humble. I humble myself before you now…I cast down any pride or self-justification that I would hide behind, and I present myself to you as I truly am–weak and helpless and despairing of my very life. I know there is no other Rock but You, and I turn to You with all of my heart. Father, please forgive my sin! I open myself up to receive Your cleansing, Your healing, Your forgiveness, and Your faith, hope and love into my being. I receive your love as a river, washing over the dry wasteland of my emotions. I see that in Your river there is life, and that every place your river touches in me is revived. I cast all my cares, my sorrows, my disappointments into that river and I let the current of Your spirit carry them far away. I believe You, when You say that You think good thoughts about me, and that Your plans are to give me a future and a hope. I believe You when You say that You knew who I was even before my mother conceived me–and that You wanted me to be alive on the earth right now. Thank you for giving me life! Thank you for working all things in my life for good! Thank you that I can call on your Name and You will be near me. Thank you for bearing all my weaknesses and diseases on the cross, and healing me, spirit, soul and body.”
Note - If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts and tendencies, please get help. Don’t try to face this on your own. There is hope and healing, and there are many who will journey through this trial with you. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time day or night 24/7, to talk to someone who understands. Or go online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for more information and help.
Editors Note: Continual things come and go, like arguments or rain. Continuous, on the other hand, is nonstop.
I live in Southern California near Thousand Oaks where just a few days ago there was a mass shooting in which twelve people including the shooter (who took his own life) and a Deputy Sheriff were killed. Just a few days later, in this same and adjacent areas in Southern California, and areas of Northern California fires, fanned by high winds. destroyed homes businesses and many people died. Several of these fires continue to burn as I write this post.
Many have and will continue to experience grief over these losses of loved ones, homes, and other things. There is the initial shock and immediate grief of the loss but, that's just the beginning of the process. There will be times, even years after the loss, where you see or hear something that reminds you of that person, place, or thing and you will experience thoughts of joy or sadness. It's all part of the process and it's necessary. One of the toughest parts of grieving a loss is that grief often is layered and continual...it doesn't hit all at once.
When it comes to death of a loved one, a divorce, or a severed relationship with a life long friend, the initial loss is the relationship...then as the weeks go by, they realize it changes many of their other circumstances and relationships...then they realize how the loss is affecting any children, or other relatives and friends, even finances.
The pain is a process it’s very heartbreaking...and frustrating.
God has the ability to bring us deep peace. As we keep our minds on God, He is faithful to give us peace that is unexplainable.
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.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
If you know of someone who has recently lost their home and/or other things of sentimental value due to a fire, or other natural disaster, divorce, financial reasons...or if you know of someone who has lost a loved one through death or severed relationship, perhaps a divorce, reach out to them today. Bless them through the love and resources God has blessed you with.
Isaiah 32:17 NKJV The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
Proverbs 11:25 NKJV The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
Editor’s Note: In an interview with The Christian Post best-selling author and singer Sheila Walsh has shared how her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts allowed her to experience the power of Jesus — and why the Church must "wake up" to the number of pastors struggling with mental illness. This post is the full content of the article written by Leah MarieAnn Klett and published October 29, 2018.
Best-selling author and singer Sheila Walsh has shared how her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts allowed her to experience the power of Jesus — and why the Church must "wake up" to the number of pastors struggling with mental illness.
Walsh, an internationally-known speaker and Bible teacher, recalled to The Christian Post how, twenty-six years ago, she checked herself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital. She was diagnosed with clinical depression, a devastating condition affecting more than 16.1 million American adults.
"At the time, I was serving as the co-host of The 700 Club show on Christian Broadcasting Network," she said. "I knew how to put on a good face and isolate myself from people. I was surrounded by people, a ministry leader, but so desperately lonely and depressed. Up until that point, I'd based so much of God's love on me getting everything right. When you end up in a psych hospital, that platform has been pulled from beneath you."
While at the hospital, Walsh said she was overwhelmed with a sense of God's presence in the midst of her pain. She cried out, "I never knew You lived so close to the floor."
"There was such a profound sense of, 'The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,'" she said. "So often, that's what depression feels like. You feel as if you've been crushed. But in those times, that's when you can experience the presence of the Lord. When things go wrong, we feel as if God has left us or doesn't hear us, but I am learning that even in the darkest places, God's timing is perfect and His presence is promised."
Walsh draws from her experience with depression and mental illness to share eight simple, practical steps to help women move forward one day at a time in her new book It's Okay Not To Be Okay: Moving Forward One Day At A Time.
"After opening up about my own struggles, so many women reached out to me asking for advice," she said. "This isn't a self-help book; it's a God-help book. I don't think self-help is help at all. I wanted to share eight things I've learned in my own life to help others move forward."
One of the most important steps in her journey, Walsh said, was daring to have "gut-level, unedited conversations with God."
"We have this head knowledge that God knows everything, but there's something so healing about pouring your heart out to God, telling Him everything," she said. "We think we have to use certain words, we have to be respectful and careful with God, but what I've discovered, just as the Psalmist David did, that our honesty invites the nearness of God's presence."
There's this "incredibly damaging" misconception in the Church that believers shouldn't struggle with mental illness, Walsh contended.
"So often, when people are already hurting and struggling, we shame them, we make them feel as if there's something wrong with them," she said. "We tell them there's a lack of faith or trust in God, we tell them to pull themselves together. But, it's not a lack of faith; it's a lack of chemicals in your brain to be able to function well."
"I've had way too many conversations with spouses or parents whose child committed suicide because they were told within their church they don't believe in medication; they're told, 'We'll pray for you,'" she continued. "That makes me desperately sad, because mental illness isn't curable, it's treatable. Medication corrects the chemicals in your brain, allowing you to function well and be who God created you to be."
Pastors and ministry leaders, Walsh contended, are particularly susceptible to burnout, depression, and mental illness — and the Church needs to "wake up" and support those in leadership positions amid what she referred to as an "epidemic."
We have this skewed idea of what it means to represent Christ; we think we need to look like the Good News," she said. "We don't. Jesus is the Good News. We need to simply begin having this conversation, acknowledging that this is an issue. We need to be telling our pastors, 'Please don't be ashamed, please don't give up — help is available.'"
Still, the Church has made "great strides" when it comes to the issue of mental health, Walsh said, pointing to the ministry of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, who lost their 23-year-old son to suicide several years ago.
"From their unspeakable grief, the Warrens have done so much good," she said. "Their son, Matthew, was a darling boy, but he suffered so deeply from depression. Rick and Kay have such a phenomenal ministry and are leading the way in helping other churches understand mental illness."
Walsh said that one of her favorite quotes comes from theologian Charles Spurgeon, who suffered from extreme clinical depression
"Sometimes, his depression was so severe, he couldn't be on the pulpit for a whole month," she said. "Still, he said, 'I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the rock of ages.'"
"When you understand the life of the man who said that, it's much more profound to me," she continued. "He learned to be grateful for the darkness that plagued him, because it threw him to the arms of Christ."
The author hopes her book will change the stigma surrounding Christians and mental health — and encourages readers to "fall more in love with Jesus."
Editor's Note:. In the past six months my church family, my own family, and several friends have gone through and are still going through the loss of loved ones. The cause of death has run the gamut from natural causes, to suicide, even murder. They and we are all grieving in different ways. Some of us cry, others question God; some of us wonder if there was anything we could have done differently; some of us try external aids like alcohol or drugs (both legal and illegal). One of the big issues grief and the grieving process is the inability to sleep. In this post our guest blogger Sara Bailey gives us great advice for dealing with our sleeplessness while we grieve.
The Best Advice for Managing Sleeplessness Following the Loss of a Loved One
By Sara Bailey
Losing someone you love impacts your entire life, often making it difficult to get through your days and nights. When you’re unable to sleep during bereavement, it can make you feel even worse. Instead of tossing and turning, take some simple steps to improve your sleep.
Loss of a loved one and lost sleep. Even if you never experienced insomnia before, the loss of someone you love can mean losing sleep. You might lie awake, sifting through memories and emotions, or staring at the ceiling feeling empty. Insomnia in the wake of loss is actually not unusual. Some studies reflect a link between sleep and grief. Basically, it’s a vicious circle. People struggle to rest when they are grieving, which in turn, exacerbates their grief and makes it harder to sleep. Focus on the Family points out grieving is an entirely personal journey, and there is no right or wrong path, nor is there is a certain time frame for grief. Even Jesus wept with grief, but when you can’t sleep well, it inhibits your ability to heal from your loss.
Examine your environment. Your bedroom surroundings can play a key role in how well you sleep. Make it a point to keep your room dark, cool, and quiet. You might try some aromatherapy to help you rest and relax. Vanilla and lavender oils are known to be helpful with getting a good night’s sleep, calming your body and mind. Some people benefit from sleep-assistive devices. There are hybrid machines that monitor your habits and incorporate sound and light to help you fall into sound slumber. There are even “smart” sleep masks that analyze your sleep patterns to help you snooze. Another idea is to change up your bedroom. Now might be the perfect time to invest in a new mattress. A new bed could help you achieve some closure and make you more comfortable for sleeping. If you decide it’s time to replace your mattress, consider ordering a bed in a box. Once delivered, a bed in a box is far easier to move to the right room than a traditional mattress. It can be maneuvered through halls and around tight corners with minimal hassle, which is particularly important if you’re trying to manage it by yourself. You should also select a mattress that suits your sleep position to help optimize your comfort.
Sleepy and synchronized. Getting into a routine can help synchronize your body with a healthy sleep pattern. By going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning, your body begins to expect that routine—allowing you to fall and stay asleep more easily. Changing what you do in the hours before bed can also be helpful. For instance, looking at your cell phone, tablet, or television right before bed can actually trigger you to feel more alert. Those electronics emit a blue light that is counterproductive to sleeping. Getting in some physical activity can also help, especially if you work out early in the day. Exercising offers bonus benefits as well, helping to lower your stress and anxiety levels, and releasing feel-good chemicals in your brain. Avoid late-day exercising, though, since the boost might keep you awake at night.
Rethink your eating habits. Many people are comfort eaters, and while that might feel good in the moment, it’s important to be conscientious about eating a nutritious diet. Psychology Today explains nutrition plays an important role in supporting your mental health—and you are going through an especially difficult time. Certain foods can help lower your risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, while at the same time boosting cognitive function. Include fatty fish, whole grains, leafy greens, and yogurt in your meals. There are also some foods you should avoid eating before bed. Steer clear of spicy foods, dairy products, and sugary foods at bedtime since they could interfere with your sleep.
It’s important to get sufficient sleep for your well-being. Change your environment and habits to encourage better slumber. Rest in the palm of His hand and know that in time, you will heal.
To contact Sara email her at email@example.com Visit her website The Widow Net
Psalm 4:8 (NLT2) In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.
Psalm 127:2 (NLT2) It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Proverbs 3:21-24 (NLT2) 21 My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them,22 for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace.23 They keep you safe on your way, and your feet will not stumble.24 You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly.
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.