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: The content in this post is from the Grief Bites:. Finding Treasure In Hardships, YouVersion Reading Plan by Kim Niles and Grief Bites. The plan will tell you how to get your breath back after life knocks it out of you. For more information visit www.griefbites.com
“Life is like a piano: the white keys represent happiness, the black keys show sadness. But as you go through life’s journey, remember that the black keys make music too…”
All of life works together to create the masterpiece that each of us are so brilliantly offered every single day.
The good and the bad in life...both help people to appreciate different facets of life and to live the best life they possibly can.
You can’t only take the good in life and reject the bad because both are tremendous shaping tools to help you live a completely full life…one is the sandpaper of life and the other is the buffer to make it brilliantly shine…both have the powerful ability to refine you. Without BOTH, the melody of life is incomplete…the song isn’t as powerfully sung or played.
When we reject the bad in life, and resent our circumstances, we ultimately reject a higher purpose for our life that can be used to help others. When we attempt to get through a trying time in high speed, we miss out on some life’s most amazing lessons…lessons that can change you. Lessons that can give you a depth you didn’t realize you had. Lessons that can catapult you to a new level of greatness you didn’t even know you had in you to reach.
Lessons during loss, trauma, and disappointments are never fun. They're uncomfortable, often very devastating, and extremely self-revealing.
Not everybody has the opportunity to find out exactly what they’re made of. We all think we know what we believe, think, and understand about God, relationships, and life...but loss tests everything in life to a great level: your relationship (and loyalty) to God, family, and others…as well as all previously held thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about many topics. Loss has the potential to forever change a person...for the better or worse.
Think of the song your life is playing. It most likely is a rich combination of both black and white keys.
The flats and sharps (black keys) are the notes in life that threaten and attempt to discourage you, pierce you, and make you ineffective in living life to the fullest.
The white keys are the notes that encourage you and show you just how incredible and amazing life is and how great life can be.
You may not have the ability to choose what keys are playing right now…you may have many black keys that are bringing intense pain. Realize this though: every key that is playing in your life melody today has incredible value. You need both.
Allow the song and the notes of your life to play. Embrace all that is going on in your life. The songs in life always change because life is just one incredible morphing of notes that are there to teach you to enjoy, appreciate, and learn about every facet of life.
There is so much good in life. We all are so blessed…even on our worst days.
If you don’t like the notes that are playing in your life, take the notes to the feet of Jesus and ask Him to help you grow through your loss. Ask the Great Conductor to change your life to play new music...and a new song...that will glorify Him as He leads you in life.
We all are responsible to make the best music possible that plays out of our life...and leave the writing of our songs in life to Him.
Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Think about this: one of the greatest songs ever created was used from many dark keys. There IS beauty through the black keys in life…but you most likely will have to embrace the tough times and refuse to not allow good to come out of those times.
One of my all time favorite classical piano songs is Fantasie Impromptu Op.66 by Frederic Chopin. It is a challenging piece to play because it uses a difficult four against three in the rhythm. This rhythm makes this song very difficult...but once it is mastered, it is a genius piece.
Listen to this beautiful song on Youtube, and as you listen to…and appreciate…the richness and depth of the notes, make the decision to allow every black and white key in your life to create an unforgettable life song.
Allow the songs your life creates to be an incredible testimony to God.
He can take all the notes in your life and create a true masterpiece!
Zephaniah 3:17 NIV The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Proverbs 4:23-27 GNT Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. Never say anything that isn't true. Have nothing to do with lies and misleading words. Look straight ahead with honest confidence; don't hang your head in shame. Plan carefully what you do, and whatever you do will turn out right. Avoid evil and walk straight ahead. Don't go one step off the right way.
Philippians 4:8 (NLT) And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Thinking good things even works for non-believers and sceptics just think of what it will do for you. When you think only of the good things you allow the fruit of the Spirit to flourish in and through you.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
When we do this we are able to push those feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression into the background and focus on the things of God.
We are what we think, and our lives, attitudes, feelings, reactions, results, failures, successes, and personalities are formed by the strands of thought that tie our brain cells together like baling wire. This is so self-evident it’s been at the heart of philosophy and religion from the beginning of human civilization.
Even non-Christians know this. The Hindus taught, “Man becomes that of which he thinks.” The Buddha said, “The mind is everything: what you think you become.” Marcus Aurelius said, “Your life is what your thoughts make it.” Descartes wrote: “I think, therefore I am.” The nineteenth-century Unitarian preacher William Channing wrote: “All that a man does outwardly is but the expression and completion of his inward thought.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up nicely, saying, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
William James laid the foundation for today’s motivational movement and positive-thinking literature with these simple words: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
The homespun British philosopher James Allen wrote:
A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts. . . . Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit. . . . Let a man radically alter his thoughts, and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life. Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstances.
Allen added, “As the physically weak man can make himself strong by careful and patient training, so the man of weak thoughts can make them strong by exercising himself in right thinking.” - From Avoid Ministry Burnout, Think On These Things)
A Prayer To Transform Your Mind And Life
By Tracie Miles
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2a (NLT)
If we allow our minds to be shaped by negative thoughts, we are headed straight toward a life lacking peace, joy and hope. But, when we humbly admit our need for change and invite Christ to renew our minds — one thought at a time — we are blessed with the ability to enjoy life, despite its challenges. Although it might seem difficult at first, it is possible to change the way we think if we commit to three easy steps:
1. Recognize Negative Thoughts.
Each time a negative thought enters your mind, make note of how you’re feeling. Ask yourself things like: Does this thought help me in any way? Does it make me happy, or does it steal my peace? Is this a problem God can’t handle, or am I assuming it’s too big for Him? (Trick question: Nothing is too big for God!) Is it even true according to God’s Word? Asking God to make us aware of our negative thoughts is the first step to learning to control them.
2. Reject Negative Thoughts.
Once you learn to be aware of your negative thoughts, you can begin to combat them and fight back. Each time you notice a negative thought, aim to pause and reject it. Remind yourself not to focus on the negativity, and instead, try to focus on something positive. If you’ve decided it’s not really true, don’t allow yourself to entertain it anymore. If that negative thought is stealing your peace, refuse to give it power over your joy, peace or happiness, much less your life. Take control of what you’re thinking, rather than letting your thoughts run rampant. Then, turn that negative thought around.
3. Replace Negative Thoughts.
If something bad happens to us, we don’t have to believe we have a bad life. When we experience something positive in the morning but have to deal with something negative in the afternoon, we have the choice to decide whether we’ve had a good or bad day overall. If someone hurts our feelings, we can forgive and refuse to let it fester in our thoughts and steal our confidence. If someone insults us, we can focus on our positive attributes and remember what God’s Word says about us is most important.
Each time we notice our minds are wandering to a place where discouragement, sadness, fear, anger or negativity reside, we have the authority and the power to choose to reject those negative thoughts and shift them to be more positive.
Lord, How I Long To Break Free From Negative Thinking And Embrace Peace And Joy And Optimism. I Invite You To Begin Transforming My Thought Patterns And Help Me Recognize, Reject And Replace Thoughts That Are Not Pleasing To You.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Editor’s Note: Some content taken from the Encouragement for Today devotional, “3 Easy Steps to Transforming Your Mind and Your Life,” written by Tracie Miles.
The hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the sentencing of Bill Cosby, the charges filed and accusations against Harvey Weinstein, charges and accusations against other high profile men in entertainment, sports, business, and government, along with the #MeToo Movement have all caused us to take a real look sexual abuse of women in this country.
Most of us already knew that there was a problem but those in a position to make a difference or effect change did nothing and often retaliated against the accusers and those who supported them. Thank God things are beginning to change. We have a long way to go and the church can lead in effecting change. We can start with our own sons and those we mentor and teach.
I read a post, on Crosswalk.com, that I am sharing in this post, it is a mother's advice to her son on how we can start to change this depraved condition against the one that God designed to be man’s equal partner as we do what God commissioned Adam to do.
Genesis 1:26-28 NIV Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Genesis 2:20-24 NIV So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
A Mother's Advice to Her Son Amidst the Climate of Sexual Assault
By RJ Thesman, Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
*Bold Emphasis Mine
My son has a tender heart. When he sees any type of suffering, he feels the pain. But he goes farther on the scale of empathy. He wants to do something to rectify the problem – something for permanent change.
As we watched recent news reports of powerful men admitting to sexual assault, my son asked, “What can I do? How can these harmful behaviors stop?”
So I devised a list—ideas all of us might use to change this depravity in our culture:
1. Respect the Women in Your Life
Treat your girlfriend, co-workers, your mother—all the women you know—treat them with the same respect you want them to give you.
No rolling your eyes when they state an opinion different from yours. No skanky locker room talk. Let your character come from a healthy place. Spread honor to all the women you meet.
2. Teach Your Son How to Treat WomenLittle boys learn by example. They watch their father and the men in their lives. They learn when mature men teach them how to relate to women, how to respect all human beings, how to speak about women when they’re alone and in groups of other guys.
A man of godly character acts the same whether he’s drying off in the locker room or sitting in the church pew.
Mothers teach their sons by what they tolerate and how they speak up for themselves.
Recently, I sat in a hospital waiting room with other people who were waiting for their loved ones to finish surgery. Together, we watched the big screen and the latest reports of sexual assault.
One of the men across the room said, “That’s so silly. They’re going back years and years to find stuff on these men. The statute of limitations is over.” I stood up and said, “The statute of limitations is never over for the women they assaulted.”
I could have listed lifetime side effects from harassment, assault and rape. I could have told him about my own experience and those of countless other women who sat in my office and wiped their tears, some of them just remembering what happened to them as children … all of them forever affected by what had been done to them.
3. Make Sure Your Workplace Has a No-Tolerance Policy and Supports Sexual Harassment Training
More workplaces, including Capitol Hill, are now advocating for training about sexual harassment and sexual assault. Apparently, many adults need to be taught how to treat women.
When this happens in your workplace, support the training, participate, and apply the principles. We can all learn as certain behaviors are explained and underscored. We can all improve on how we treat each other.
4. Pay Attention at the Ballot Box
Refuse to vote for anyone who has a history of sexual assault or for anyone who demeans the value of women.
If we want attitudes and behaviors to change, then we need to underscore our principles where it counts.
Make sure those in the positions of power exercise honor and the highest qualities of character. The trickle-down theory can be a positive experience if we start at the top levels.
The Apostle Paul reminds us to think on what is pure.
Philippians 4:8 NIV 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.
If Jesus’ followers present a unified front to stand up for what is right, then the cause of Christ moves forward. But if we vote for those who have regularly demeaned and devalued the feminine half of the church, we must accept the title of “Hypocrite.”
More than any other religious leader in history, Jesus Christ treated women with respect. He accepted them as disciples and leaders. He dared to confront the cultural norms and allowed women to sit at his feet and learn. Wealthy women supported him, and women throughout history have accepted his call for service.
If the political and religious leaders of today cannot follow the example of Christ, then we have no business endorsing them.
5. Keep Your Mind Pure
A recent Barna survey noted almost 70% of Christian men engage in pornography. The porn industry objectifies and devalues women while the evil of pornography filters into every level of life. Porn is never satisfied with its current level. A brief look at an online magazine quickly grows into an addiction, the loss of intimacy in marriage, clandestine meetings with prostitutes, even sex trafficking of children.
The women depicted in porn are often young girls made up to appear as older, consenting females. But no matter who they are, men of character have no business spending time and money on such an evil pursuit.
Memorize and apply First Timothy 5:2, “Treat the older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
Find a recovery group. Admit your struggle. Confess and repent. Change is possible.
6. Pray for Global ChangeAll over the world, girls are victimized. In every war-torn country, women are raped by the enemy. The Bible contains numerous accounts of sexual assaults when women had no options for protection or justice.
We should not be surprised that an age-old sin still operates among us. But God is greater, and he has a good plan for the women in his family as well as the men. As we commit to pray against this type of victimization, we bring the issue to the highest authority. God is just. He will ultimately vindicate his daughters.
7. Be Proactive to Protect Victims
In our volatile society, we are encouraged to watch for suspicious terrorist activities. Report the backpack left in the airport lounge. Be alert for scary behavior in co-workers.
If you see someone harassing a woman or hear someone demeaning women in the workplace, in the restaurant, at the ball game – speak up. Be the courageous one who fights for change rather than accepting the status quo.
8. Give to Organizations That Help Women
Domestic violence often begins with verbal put downs, emotional abuse and/or sexual assault. Support organizations that help women recover. Refer women to safe places for counseling and support. Do something practical to help women heal.
9. Share Healthy Posts on Social Media
Don’t foster more information that devalues women or depict graphics where women are mistreated. Be the person who responds to Facebook posts and Tweets that honor women. Share this blog post so others can learn about proactive ways to change our culture. Start a revolution of respect for everyone – no matter who they are.
This entire issue of sexual assault underscores how depraved mankind has become. Ultimately, the answer for “What can I do to make a difference?” bleeds from the hands and feet of the man who chose to take our depraved and sinful nature and transform our lives. We can do our part to make a difference, but we can also recognize where our salvation comes from.
No wonder we need a Savior.
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.