No matter what you believe about hell in the afterlife, if it’s literal or figurative, some of you, like me, have have been through hell on earth, and can testify that it’s no fun. Some of you have a loved one or friend who is hurting inside and you don’t know how to help. Hopefully this post will help you or them a little.
It is my hope that in communicating with you on this blog, that I’m not giving the impression that I’ve ‘arrived’ and I’m completely healthy now. I struggle every day, one way or another, and probably will for a while. It’s been years since my mental breakdown, but with God’s help, I am getting better every day.
When it comes to mental health, here is what you need:
- Get a good doctor. Good doctors will listen to you and patiently help you through the medication and counseling process. If you don’t have a good psychiatrist and you live in the Atlanta area, email me (stephentshores at gmail dot com) and I can give you a referral.
Take your medicine, and keep taking it. You’re probably going to go through a few different medications to stabilize your moods. During that time, it’s important to keep your doctor apprised of how you’re doing.
Take your medicine, no matter what the ‘faith preacher’ says. God isn’t displeased with you because you’re having to rely on medication. You might have to be on some sort of medication the rest of your life. God is still happy with you and loves you no matter what. Faith is not going off your medication–that’s stupidity and lack of wisdom.
Sometimes faith is just simple trust in God, asking him to work through the doctors to get your medication right. And think positively–maybe you will be completely healed! I had severe, debilitating depression that went away after a revival at my church. It eventually came back, but it was much, much less and basically went away with a small adjustment in medication.
- Take care of your physical health. A good walk or run might be just what you need to help kick depression, or at least take the edge off. Take a look at Sad Runner for some good stories of how one man is kicking his depression through exercise.
Keep track of how you feel when you eat certain foods or drink certain drinks. If they make you feel depressed or anxious, stop eating/drinking them or moderate yourself. If I drink too much caffeine, I get anxious, too much chocolate and I get depressed. If I moderate those, I’m fine. Food that makes you sleepy should be avoided if you get depressed when you’re sleepy, as I sometimes do.
- Remember that you’re not alone. Ask around and you’ll find that probably dozens of people you know are on some sort of medication for anxiety or depression. These are difficult times, and there are many, many people who need help, but there is still a stigma associated with mental health that makes people hesitate to tell anyone that they need help, or are currently getting help.
Take your medication. If it makes you feel bad, talk to your doctor until he or she gets it right. If your doctor won’t listen, find another doctor. But keep taking your medication.
I pray for you according to Paul in Ephesians 1, emphasis mine:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…
I pray that God renews your hope, and also that you’ll ask for and receive wisdom, according to James 1:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
(‘Without reproach’ means that God’s not going to make fun of you for asking for wisdom–that’s what the Holy Spirit is there for, to be your Counselor and Guide.)
Have hope, use wisdom, and be blessed, friends.
Last week I was feeling rather dry and depressed inside. I couldn’t find anything to listen to on my evening commute–none of the many audiobooks I have seemed to fit the bill, and none of the music I have on my phone seemed to satisfy.
Then I remembered a friend of mine had a new podcast which I had loaded on my phone and forgotten about, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt. It definitely didn’t hurt, and in fact, it helped quite a bit. Continue reading “Coming Home, Part 1: ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’”
Today’s song is I’ll Be There by Andrew Rayel.
God has ways of speaking to us without words, without a voice that we hear out loud or in our heads. (He can do both, but I suspect Holy Spirit values subtlety and quiet.)
I haven’t written much over the past few months because, to be honest, I’ve been in a funk most of the time, Thoreau’s quiet desperation, as worries have been crowding my mind and relief has seemed like it will never come.
This song was exactly what I needed.
If you trust me
I will take you
Farther than the stars
You’re the ship and
I’m the lighthouse
In the fog I’ll find you where you are
Beyond the stars. I’ve dreamed of both natural and spiritual experiences that transcend normality. Getting to see the world, when I’ve barely stepped foot out of the state in twenty years. Experiencing mind-blowing revelation from the Word. And other stuff I can’t imagine at the moment because my world has grown far too small–I haven’t been able to look up from the ground. Continue reading “In The Fog I’ll Find You Where You Are”
It didn’t go down well.
I won’t go into what happened, but suffice it to say, it hurt me and indirectly hurt my family, and I was angry–still am.
As a Christian, what am I supposed to do at this point? I feel like praying for them to take a long walk off a short pier. What I’m supposed to do is, of course, pray for my enemies.
The ESV has Matthew 3: 43-45:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
How do we pray for our enemies? The Lord’s Prayer says:
Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
…but if I may add something that has been helpful to me, and perhaps may help you, I will.
Whenever I am lied to, betrayed, or hurt in some way, I pray for justice and mercy.
That’s it. Justice on the one hand, mercy on the other. Both, not just one or the other.
The Douay-Rheims has Psalm 85:10:
Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed.
In Christ, justice and mercy meet. We deserved justice; we received mercy.
God’s Idea of Justice
I specifically pray for justice, because I have been wronged and I want to see it made right. I want revenge. I want something bad to happen to those who made something bad happen to me.
Justice: That Time When I Was Fired and the Company Failed
One time I was wrongly fired from a job. At the time I was much younger in Christ, and I wanted revenge, big time. My wife and I even consulted a lawyer, but there was nothing he could do. At the time, this scripture came to mind, James 5:1-6. Per the ESV:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
That was a satisfying scripture.
What happened? The company later folded in one of the most miserable ways: from the inside. A year later, the company was gone.
Did God destroy a company for my sake. Well, I think so, but I don’t know. There were a few non-wicked individuals in that company who didn’t deserve to lose their job. The rest, who knows? Did they later repent? Did they later get saved? Who knows? The fact is, it happened, and I was very glad at the time. It appeared to be God’s justice at work.
This isn’t a formula, and it doesn’t happen all the time. I was unfairly let go from another company several years later, and the company is still there and doing fine as far as I know. The people who wronged me this morning, things could be going swimmingly for them for years to come. But I trust God to make it right.
In the end, God makes everything right. Psalm 1, ESV, emphasis mine:
Blessed is the man [this is you]
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
The reason I pray for justice and mercy is that God is love. He, as exemplified in Christ, is the perfect embodiment of both justice and mercy. So while we pray for God to make it right in justice, we also pray for God to also make it right in his kindness. Jonah expected God to wipe Nineveh off the face of the earth, despite their repentance, and God had to give him a remedial course in mercy. We don’t know if Jonah learned anything, but we can learn for ourselves.
Mercy is God’s decision. Romans 9, emphasis mine:
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Since mercy is God’s decision, mercy needs to be my decision.
Mercy: The Ultimate Revenge
I pray for justice, but I also pray for mercy. The ultimate revenge, to my knowledge, is seeing my enemies meet Jesus and become saved. I’ve met people who were hellions in high school and treated me terribly back then, and many years later, met them again and they had gotten saved and were living righteous lives.
I won’t say that this is because of my prayers (I sowed plenty of my own wild oats myself in high school, so at the time I might not have thought to pray for them at all). But clearly someone prayed for them, and maybe even it was someone who they had wronged.
God has mercy on his enemies. He wants us to pray for our enemies, ‘so that we may be sons of our Father who is in heaven.’ So that we may look like he who granted mercy on us. Christ received death so that we would receive life. The NIV has Isaiah 53:5:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
The Lord’s Prayer also addresses mercy:
Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.
We are to forgive as he forgives.
What do you do after a betrayal? After someone lies to you, steals from you, cheats you, or otherwise mistreats you?
You hurt. You rage. Maybe you cry. It hurts. You have to recognize that your emotions are all right, and it’s OK to express them. If you have friends or loved ones or a pastor you can express them to, all the better–they can help you cope.
Then, when things calm down, you pray. After the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps you do as I do.
“Lord, I pray for justice and mercy.”
Then you learn to let it go. You decide to forgive. Forgiveness is not automatic; you have to decide whether or not you will forgive them. Your emotions will not cooperate with you.
Ultimately, you let God be God. Let him do what He wills. You’ll see ‘the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living’. You’ll ultimately prosper, and God will handle them. Maybe you’ll hear about the person who hurt you being punished later on–maybe they’ll even see ‘instant karma’. Maybe they’ll repent and become saved, and you’ll be reconciled. Maybe they’ll go on their merry way, hurting other people, and you’ll have to let God handle it.
Doing your part, praying for your enemies, is what you can do. Then you let God handle all the rest.
This morning a couple of songs from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ were in my head. I reflected on Twitter that I hadn’t watched the movie since my ‘I wanted to be Jewish’ kick about a decade ago.
One of the worst flaws of my personality is the tendency towards obsession. Through the years I’ve been, by the grace of God, able to tame that tendency somewhat. I’ll walk you through some of the faulty logic here, and perhaps this will help you if you recognize this tendency in yourself. Or perhaps you’re a Christian who is obsessed with ‘Jewish roots’ and need a kick in the pants.
More after the break. Continue reading “I Wanted To Be Jewish (Overcoming Obsessions, Part 1)”