“I don’t want anyone to know I am depressed,” she pleaded with me, “what would people think? How can I be a Christian and be depressed? I know God is good … why can’t I snap out of this?” I wish I could tell you that this was a one-time conversation, but it’s not. I hear it almost weekly and it breaks my heart. Because it’s fraught with lies. A trap...
“I don’t want anyone to know I am depressed,” she pleaded with me, “what would people think? How can I be a Christian and be depressed? I know God is good … why can’t I snap out of this?”
I wish I could tell you that this was a one-time conversation, but it’s not. I hear it almost weekly and it breaks my heart.
Because it’s fraught with lies. A trap designed to keep a brother or sister in the dark, alone and ashamed. Our God of Light never intended this, and depression is part of being a believer.
Let’s look at Psalm 130. Psalm 130 is part of the Psalms of Ascent; the songs the pilgrims would sing as they journeyed to Jerusalem for worship. Written in triads, the Psalms of Ascent begin in 120 with the psalmist in the deepest darkest despair who can barely look to his Lord and end in Psalm 134 with restored joy that comes from communing with God in the assembly of believers.
The journey through the Psalms of Ascent cover the life of the pilgrim between his darkest despair and being restored with joy. Psalm 129 speaks of the psalmist’s torment by wicked men who torture God’s people. Let’s look at how the psalmist deals with his pain.
Song of the Ascents
1 Out of the depths, I cry to You, O Lord!
2 O Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive to
the voice of my pleas for mercy!
3 If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with You, there is forgiveness,
That You may be feared.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His Word, I hope.
6 My soul waits for the Lord,
More than dawn-watchers for the morning,
More than dawn-watchers for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord, there is steadfast love,
And with Him, there is
8 And He will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
Note how the psalmist feels here – in the depths of a watery chaotic despair. Isn’t that the feeling of depression? Submerged in confusion that hurts, drowning in discord, every breath consumed in lungs already brimming with anguish. Depression is like this, isn’t it? Grey days slam into one another and doubt besets us.
Is this it? Will this pain every stop? Am I doomed? Would everyone else be better off without me?
(If you feel this way, just know the answers are: no, yes, no, NO!) Scripture tells us that there is a time to weep as well as laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
The psalmist shrieks out from these shadows to his God. Although nothing makes sense right now, he reminds himself of what he knows of his God. This is a God who hears the cries of His children (Read Psalm 86:1-7 to experience this more fully) no matter where they are (Psalm 139:7-12).
God hears you in your pain. He is not disappointed nor put off by it. Psalm 88 tells us of a psalmist’s overwhelming agony as he cries out. Allow your Lord to walk with you through this season, turn to Him, not away from Him.
Sometimes, though, we are afraid to call out because we suffer from shame. Maybe we have sinned and are like Adam and Eve and think we need to hide from God. We know we have done wrong, we know we deserve His wrath, we know we just can’t measure up. Maybe we have hurt someone else. Or maybe our depression comes because someone has sinned against us and we wonder how we will recover from the wounds. Verses 3-4 tells us that the psalmist knows about this, but also reminds himself (and the reader) that there IS forgiveness with this amazing God! The psalmist knows that justice and righteousness are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89 & 97) where He extends His covenantal love to His people.
What a truth to cling to when we doubt that He might not love us anymore, or that we have done something too terrible this time (Read Romans 8 to dispel this lie from the pit of hell!), or that we are just too needy. On this side of the cross, sin is paid for. We confess our sins to remind ourselves of His forgiveness, and the power of His forgiveness allows us to extend that forgiveness to others.
Depression doesn’t dispel easily. Although we look to His Word, it isn’t an easy fix. We wait, along with the psalmist for the light to restore hope in us. But it doesn’t mean that we aren’t spiritual or that we are failing. The psalmist waits, and we find that there are others in the Bible that we wait with – Elijah (1 Kings 19), David (Psalm 6 and others) and Paul (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).
The end of Psalm 130 is an encouragement from the psalmist to hope in the God of Israel. He is the God of hope, and it is to Him that we must turn to in these dark seasons. When we realize that our suffering is for eternal purposes, we must trust Him to guide us through it (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Please, if you find yourself in this dark despair, reach out to a brother or sister who will remind of the hope that seems so elusive at this time! You are dearly loved by a holy God and it is not His intention that you walk alone. You can also contact Elizabeth – she will pray with you and walk with you through this.
The fifith and final blog in Elizabeth Allan's "Traveling in Grace & Truth" series. Milton Vincent presented a workshop entitled, “Resurrecting a Shattered Faith” that was illustrated by Luke 24. He explained that often the prodigal will ask, “Where was God when I suffered?” How can you repond?
Milton Vincent presented a workshop entitled, “Resurrecting a Shattered Faith” that was illustrated by Luke 24. He explained that often the prodigal will ask, “Where was God when I suffered?” How can you respond?
Many prodigals are those who have been sinned against and feel deep hurt:
- They feel that God abandoned them
- They have been hurt by a church leader
- They can’t square what happened to them with what they think about God
- They can’t reconcile someone else’s sin
- Their biggest disappointment is in themselves because their faith in God has not changed them the way that they thought or they are not as spiritual as they thought they would be.
Prodigals need a friend or counselor who can nurture them back with grace and truth.
What does that look like? Jesus modeled it.
If you think about it, Jesus’ most devoted followers are the very profile of prodigals. They are disappointed that their Messiah let Himself be killed and crucified. They have been hurt by the religious leaders who murdered Jesus. They themselves had failed Jesus. They thought they had grown so much in three years, but then, they had abandoned Him. They felt they had committed the worst of sins --- they felt they were even more wicked than before they had met Him. Jesus was abandoned by God Himself! He even said so on the Cross!
But their loving Messiah pursues His prodigal followers and nurses them back.
First, He presents them with an empty tomb. Note Luke 24:1 – they do not expect the resurrection. The women are there to embalm Him, they are not expecting to greet Him. They were not there to proclaim the first Easter, they were mourning, they were perplexed.
But He sends angelic messengers to tell them the truth by reminding them of His prior predictions of His suffering and resurrection. (Luke 24:6-8) The women DO remember and rush back to report to the assembled (24:9)! In 24:11, though, the men do not think these women are simply mistaken, but stark raving mad. Faith is not restored by their report. The men even go to the tomb, but still do not believe.
The most miraculous, history-altering, heaven-shattering event has taken place and yet, Jesus does not come down in fire and fanfare. Instead, He comes to His disciples as they walk away and listens to their story of shattered faith.
He is so loving! In their state of unbelief, they feel they have no reason to stay in Jerusalem (24:13). They talk of His death, their sorrow, and the crazy women (24:14). As they walk in unbelief, Jesus walks with them. He asks them what they are feeling.
What can we learn from this? Prodigals too have a story to tell. Ask them, repeatedly, and listen. They need the truth very badly, but first they need someone to listen to them.
And guess who is interested in their story of disappointment? Jesus! He could have skipped this part and just revealed Himself, but He takes the time to listen to them. They are hurt by the religious leaders whom they should have been able to trust (24:20). They have lost hope (24:21) and are not convinced the women really saw angels (24:23). They are sad they did not see Him. And He listens.
Do we stop and listen when we see the hopeless?
Along with His presence, Jesus brings them the healing Word. He explains the Scriptures to them, what they reveal about Him, and then reveals Himself to them.
He listens, He draws them out sympathetically, and He speaks truth to them (24:25). Hard truth that they need to hear, and we must do the same. We must help each other understand suffering – both His and their own.
When faith is too small, disappointment is great.
Notice that Jesus takes hurting people to Scripture. From Genesis to Malachi, Jesus does a Bible Study with them. He does the spade work of the heart. This is the essence of soul care.
You may think that you are not equipped or have what it takes to be a biblical counselor, but the truth is, we are all called to it. Do you feel you want some training on how to walk with a brother or sister in their dark seasons? Please join us November 9 & 10 for One to One Soul Care Conference. Click here to register or contact Elizabeth for more information.
Zack Eswine shared his painfully powerful testimony intertwined with Ecclesiastes 9:13-17 at the Loving the Wayward Souls Conference. He was vulnerable and transparent in his desire to protect us from seeking after the things of the world. Here are some of his thoughts on how can we recognize, keep from, or turn from, being the wayward fool...
“I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siege-works against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.” Ecclesiastes 9:13-17
Zack Eswine shared his painfully powerful testimony intertwined with this passage at the Loving the Wayward Souls Conference. He was vulnerable and transparent in his desire to protect us from seeking after the things of the world. Here are some of his thoughts on how can we keep from, or turn from, being the wayward fool?
Note the repetition of the word, “great” in this passage.
What seems great to the proud king is worthless compared to the saving wisdom of the poor man.
The foolish king is large, fast, and famous. He is all about speed and emotions. But though the words of the wise are only heard in the quiet, they save the city.
Do we take the time to listen as Jesus reaches into our frenzied schedules and whispers to us to behold Him?
On the one hand, the foolish king brings war for the sake of conquering and he does not protect the people under his care. Meanwhile, the poor man delivers the people from the onslaught and remains unknown.
How do you see people? Too often it seems we see people simply as resources used to improve our reputation. Do we consider how to best love others when we tweet, take selfies, and post on Facebook?
Instead, let us turn our back from foolishness and turn toward wisdom.
- Remind yourself who our Deliverer is. Christ is not interested in our efficiency or advertising, but in our holiness. He does not bring about immediate relief, He is about the business of sanctification. He delivers in the quiet wisdom of His Father. He doesn’t consume His sheep but protects them as He shares His Presence.
- Are we willing to offer our presence to the people the Lord has placed in our lives? How do we comfort others? Do we cry, eat, laugh, and live ‘with’ them? These things take time and resources. They are not for the faint of heart or for those who live in a rush.
- Does it matter to you if you are ignored by people of power, influence, and wealth? The poor wise man was not called upon by the powerful king. Can you be overlooked in order to love others? To love someone, we must commit ourselves to do small things, things that are not noticed or appreciated, and we must do them repeatedly, for a long time.
- Our culture tells us that we must always be busy, be on the move, always a foot on the next rung up. What does God tell us? Are you willing to be bored in the place that God has you? Do you appreciate the beauty of where you are at right now? Adam longed for more than the Garden. You, too, are given a place to be, things to do, and people to love. These are the things that glorify God.
Mr. Eswine ended by reminding us, “Your great hope is not in being remembered. Your hope is found in knowing that the Lord remembers you.” This is the Lord Jesus who prayed for you, you are already desired by God. Your identity is established before you even walk out the door.
These notes were taken from Zach Eswine’s talk, “A Fool’s Story: From Simple-ism to Hope”. You can listen to this here. If you feel that you are in a season of foolishness, please let someone pray with you. Contact me if you would like some resources.
Too often we assume that church is supposed to be a “perfect” place full of “good” people. We feel like we would love it if our church was made up of 250 copies of ourselves, full of people who think and act like we do. Truth is, the less people are like us the harder it is to love them. People are messy and carry the streak of sin; sadly enough, that includes you and me...
Too often we assume that church is supposed to be a “perfect” place full of “good” people. We feel like we would love it if our church was made up of 252 people who think and act like we do. The truth is, the less people are like us, the harder it is to love them. People are messy and carry the streak of sin; sadly enough, that includes you and me.
Blogger Tim Challies presented “a Heavenly Perspective of the Prodigal” using Luke 15 to illustrate the depth of our Savior’s love for His desperate people. Some realize they are desperate and others don’t, and maybe never will.
As you read Mr. Challies’ description of the Parable of the Lost Sheep ask yourself: Does every sheep know that it needs a Shepherd?
Luke 15:4a - A Shepherd’s Anguish: The Shepherd’s heart skips a beat. Something is wrong! One of his sheep is missing! This is a Good Shepherd who knows that His sheep is missing. It is the speckled one, the one with the bent ear. The Shepherd had cared for the mother, was there when the sheep was born, he has loved this sheep, provided for it as He watched it grow. And now it’s missing! He worries because the Shepherd knows that sheep are not nature’s survivalists. They are absolutely dependent on the Shepherd.
Luke 15:4b - A Shepherd’s Quest: Sheep wander. Sheep are wolf-bait. It’s not a compliment to be called a sheep, and yet, it is the description of us in the world. The Shepherd does not leave sheep to be devoured, He cries out, “My flock will never be complete without this ONE!” The only measure of success is to find and rescue it.
Through all of this what does the sheep consider? Nothing. What does the Shepherd consider? Everything. He is the one who leads, loves, listens and searches until He finds that ONE sheep.
Luke 15:5-6 - A Shepherd’s Joy: What joy when He finds the sheep! He doesn’t rebuke or punish it. He is not disgusted by it and doesn’t say the sheep has to work its way back. He does not berate or hold a grudge. He doesn’t tell the sheep it made Him look bad. Instead, He is full of joy! God loves to seek, speak to, and save the lost.
Jesus is talking to us – the church! God saves sinners!
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)
Note the contrast in Luke 15 – on one hand there are the tax collectors and sinners and on the other are the Pharisees. The tax collectors and sinners are the people who are seen as “bad”. They know they are "bad" and they know that most people don’t want them around. But Jesus not only accepts their hospitality, He actually enjoys their company.
Then there are the Pharisees. By worldly standards, they are considered the “good” people. They make sure that everyone can see how "good" they are. They want you to know they are holy and obey rules with a flare. When the Pharisees see Jesus with the taxes collectors and sinners they think that He needs higher standards.
Even then, the “good” people didn’t want to spend time with the “bad” people because it might ruin their hard-earned reputation. They want to protect their “goodness” at any cost.
Today, you and I have much the same choice to make: are we the sinners or the Pharisees? Although the “titles” might be different, the premise is still the same. Do we worry that if we spend time with certain people, it might diminish our reputations? Who are the “sinners and tax collectors” in your church and community? Whose reputation are we afraid will tarnish our own?
Are you willing to spend time with those whom Christian culture deems unacceptable? Maybe you are nice to them on Sunday morning, but do you have them in your homes? Do you let them around your children?
We are so grateful that we have a Savior who extends grace to us. It should be our joy to help others out of the mess they have made. It is the very joy of angels!
In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
Do you make it your purpose to seek out sinners? If God cares so much for the lost, how can you ignore them? Do you long for His sheep? Do you welcome them in your fold? Do you have confidence in the character of the Shepherd?
Consider your own “lostness”, fellow sheep. He sought us out and drew us to Himself. When we recognize how lost we are, offering grace to fellow lost sheep seems far less daunting.
Do you know a prodigal who has wandered from the fold?
It is not because of confidence in ourselves to reach out, but in the Good shepherd who loves to rescue!
These notes were taken from Tim Challies’ talk, “The Parable of the Lost Sheep”. If you find that you are struggling with loving another in your church, please ask someone to help you. If you would like, you can contact me at email@example.com for prayer, accountability, and resources.
What is a prodigal? Christian Lecturer Dave Harvey defined it as “one who wanders” in his message at the IBCD Conference. The concept of a wanderer and prodigal is not new. Most of us have either read about, know, have been, or witnessed a prodigal. Since the Garden we are all prone to wander, and too often, we have...
What is a prodigal? Christian Lecturer Dave Harvey defined it as “one who wanders” in his message at the IBCD Conference. The concept of a wanderer and prodigal is not new. Most of us have either read about, know, have been, or witnessed a prodigal.
Since the Garden we are all prone to wander, and too often, we have. We decide that what God has provided simply isn’t enough for us. To make it all the harder, we have an enemy who instinctively seizes the opportunity to amplify that craving. And this is US, you and I, fellow sojourners and believers in Christ! This is why too often leaders fall, marriages fail, and relationships are severed.
The desire to wander is the apex where sovereignty and free will meet.
Harvey described this phenomenon of the Prodigal as “the saint who goes sideways.”
This Prodigal is the Fool described in Proverbs - deeply entrenched in rebellion, the one who dismisses God and replaces heavenly authority with his own. He is right in his own eyes, and no one – not even the holy, loving, powerful God – can tell him differently. The Fool has begun to believe that he is right, that his ways are right, and that everything he does is right.
Wayward is the destination that the Fool pursues, wayward is where the Fool will wind up. Pull back the curtain of a prodigal, and you will find the Fool. For the Fool wants to make choices that have no consequences and to have an autonomy that needs no accountability. The Fool is not particularly interested in the pain of the one who passionately pleads with them; creating a terrible imbalance, for the Fool will exploit neediness and humility.
This may seem terribly depressing, but take heart, God’s grace is far more tenacious than any sinner.
His grace has the power to pull one out of the blackest pit.
If you are struggling to love a prodigal in your life, know that you are not alone, God is relentless in His pursuit of the lost. Harvey said, “God deals with restlessness by exhausting our attempts to rest in anything but Him.”
So, what can you do? Begin by recognizing that the family loves the prodigal far more than they are loved, and because of that, our love has to be rugged. If it is not, if our love does not have teeth, then the prodigal is armed to exploit us.
What is this rugged love? It is never minimizing or denying what is happening; never simply hoping things will fix themselves. Instead, our goal must be to reflect the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is strong enough to face the satanic slope of evil.
Naming evil is important, but more than that, we must overcome evil with good. As the prodigal slips farther and farther from the Father of Light, their world becomes the shadowy realm of reckless self.
Express love intentionally and do not enable sin.
When we love a prodigal, we sometimes imagine stories in our mind about how we will win them back. We imagine ourselves as so loving, so patient, so kind, so understanding -- of course they will be won back! But we must remember that we are not the Holy Spirit. Do you trust yourself or can you trust God? If we confine our ideals of love to something that we can confine, we will find them way too small.
There is a paradox in Scripture which was described as “redemptive release”. God will pursue us as He releases us. He knows that there are times that we must be allowed to chase what we want only to find what we need. Think about it – the prodigal son did not sit around the house playing video games. He had to leave to realize how very much he wanted to be with his father.
It’s hard to wait, and our Savior is moved by your suffering as you wait for the prodigal and persevere. Really, you have only one of two choices - you can persevere or be poisoned.
Your hope cannot be in the prodigal but in what the Lord may or may not be doing.
Draw your eyes to our Lord. Let Scripture speak to you louder than any other of the voices muttering in your heart. This relationship with a prodigal may never be reconciled, but you will never lose your relationship with our Lord. God may wait until it seems too late, but we will not know His plans on this edge of eternity. By persevering in faith, you are testifying that He alone is the one worth trusting.
Will you trust Him as you wait for your prodigal to return to the Lord and give glory to Him?
This is a tiny thumbprint of the takeaways from Dave Harvey’s lectures at the IBCD Conference. If you have a prodigal in your life, I would love to pray with you, share some resources, and walk with you. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All MCC Ministry in person meetings are suspended at this time BUT many ministries are reaching out through phone calls, emails and digital platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and Googlemeetings. Contact your ministry leader to see if this is an option for you!