Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

“Lord, hear my prayer!  Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress.  Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you.  For my days disappear like smoke, and my bones burn like red-hot coals.  My heart is sick, withered like grass, and I have lost my appetite. Because of my groaning, I am reduced to skin and bones.  I am like an owl in the desert, like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.  I like awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.” (Psalm 102:1-7)

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem.  He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” (Daniel 6:10)

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.  Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”  (Matthew 6:6)

Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31-32)

The Holy Scriptures share with us a valuable habit of our Lord Jesus Christ: He often withdrew into solitude.

The importance of the fact that He “often withdrew” into solitude should not be lost on the Christian; we should take note that in order to withdraw into solitude, Christ did not live in solitude.  He lived an engaged life with others, interacting with them, socializing with them.  He placed an importance on His time with people and spent the majority of His time serving them, teaching them, healing them, speaking with them, eating and drinking with them and surrounding Himself with them.  Because of this, He needed to rest and re-energize and did so by retreating to “lonely places”, “the wilderness”, “to solitary places”, to be alone with God.

Scripture greatly encourages time alone with God, giving example after example of righteous people deliberately and purposefully withdrawing into “places” of isolation for their time alone with God.  In those places, they are able to rest, relax their soul, their mind and their body.  It is in these places, in private, that they find their spiritual oasis they dip into for renewal.

Solitude is a place of reflection.  Reflection cannot successfully happen apart from solitude.

Scripture shows us that Jesus withdrew into solitary places to be alone when He received news about the death of John the Baptist and after performing the miracle of feeding 5,000 people (Matthew 14), when He was in distress just before His crucifixion (Luke 22), and before making the major decision of which disciples He would choose as His apostles.  Jesus was often even “alone” with his disciples, so we see that group solitude also has its benefits.

So the Christian is called to be a social creature.  We are not to live our lives in isolation, for what fruit do we bear there?  How can we fulfill our calling to spread the Good News of Christ Jesus if we are not interacting with others?  Our very lives should be as lamps set up to light the darkness; we should not put our lit lamps under baskets, as Jesus illustrated so eloquently in His parable: “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.” (Luke 11:33)

Discernment is required here to achieve balance. The calling to be social is not a calling to be a busybody.  We are not called to fill our days with so much activity and toiling that we lose our focus and become distracted and fatigued.  Some of us are extroverts; some are introverts or ambiverts.  We are not all called to approach the mission of spreading the Gospel the same way. But we ARE all called to approach the mission with deliberate purpose and thought.

If any of us are living our lives in a state of isolation, void of human contact, we should take heed.  Technology advances are actively making it so easy to get through a day without any real human contact.  Posting and scrolling through social media and “liking” and commenting on posts is no replacement for looking into someone’s eyes or hearing their voice as you communicate with them.  Sadly, studies are showing that, with the advances of social media and other technologies that eliminate the need to have real contact with others, people are feeling more isolated and lonely than ever before has been recorded.

Depression rates are skyrocketing and apathy is rampant.  Technology is perpetuating desensitization on a global scale and the human being, while able to instantly connect with any information about anything we want to know, is left more humanly disconnected than ever.

Contrary to solitude, which is healthy in moderate doses, loneliness is an emotion, a state of mind and feeling of isolation that is destructive.  Loneliness is not of God; is the result of being away from His loving Presence. Throughout the Psalms, we see time and again how David pleaded with God to be near to him and to never remove His Presence from him.  How lonely and desperate are the Psalms David wrote while anguishing and begging for God to close the distance between them.  That is loneliness.  Fellowship with God, hearing, reading, thinking on His Holy Word in a solitary place is the remedy to a lonely, anguishing, exhausted soul.

God promises that He is always with us, so if we are in fellowship with Him, we do not experience prolonged bouts of loneliness.  He is the ultimate company and friend.  He is the antithesis of loneliness.  He may send us into the wilderness for refinement or discipline, but He is always with us.

People are hurting and lost; many are losing their sensitivity to the preciousness of life, goodness and righteousness.  The burden is on the Christian to be the light in the darkness and the way we do that is to interact in a real way with others; make time for them and be purposeful in the time we spend with them.  Then we can withdraw as needed for our alone time in solitude, just as Jesus did.  There we will always find refreshment from the living waters of God’s Word and His Presence.  Find the balance.  Leverage the benefits of solitude in our lives.  “Come out” of the world and take refuge in the rest that is found in solitude.  Then we are able to shine the light of the Lamp that is inside of us so we can illuminate the darkness around.

Solitude is not necessarily a “weapon of warfare” in the great spiritual battle, but it is a private room in the fortress and stronghold we withdraw into to rest and be renewed.  If we are not properly rested, if we are not regularly renewed, we run a high risk of being too fatigued and exhausted to stand firm in our daily battles.  Be social, spread the Good News of Christ with wisdom and discernment as opportunities present themselves.  Then slip away ‘to a quiet place and rest awhile.’

 

 

I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?” (Psalm 6:3)

“The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.” (Isaiah 57:15)

Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!” (Lamentations 5:21)

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24)

“‘My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.  For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.’  As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children  Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?  If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.  Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how.  But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful!  But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.  Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”  (Hebrews 12:5b-13)

The Lord restores.  The Lord can, does, and will restore anything He wants to, for the whole world and everything in it belongs to Him.

We experience loss in our lives from many different sources; things we cherish become casualties of living in a fallen world and we watch as things and people we love die, relationships end, reputations flounder, possessions disappear.  Many of our sacrifices add up to so little in return or to nothing at all; dreams and ambitions get thwarted or we outright fail in so many ways.  Sometimes we lose precious, irreplaceable things through no fault of our own.  Sometimes we are directly responsible for painful losses we experience; our own sin, our own horrible judgment decisions rob us and destroy us.

This is a personal post, one in which I am compelled to document on a personal level that the Lord restores.  What can easily be called “The Lost Years” of my life were caused by my rebellion.

For me, there was a 4 year window of time in my young adult life where I was given the opportunity to take the next step in my educational path and attend a wonderful college to pursue my undergraduate degree.  The sky was the limit.  This was an opportunity in discovery that could go either way, to my benefit or to my destruction.

I was afforded the life that many do not get to live.  The campus was a paradise.  The classrooms, library and fitness facilities were state of the art.  The best.  Even the dining hall food was excellent.  I could have seized the moment in every way to feed my mind with every marvel in education I was curious about. I could have sculpted my body into physically the strongest and fittest version of myself possible.  I could have spent my time in social settings, doing fun, healthy things with others, forging and fostering lifelong friendships and relationships.  I could have networked and belonged to strong communities that would aid me throughout my life as I needed them.  I could have grown strong in my faith and spent my time renewing my mind and life in the beauty and guidance of God’s Eternal Word.  I could have given to others in so many ways and been a light in their lives.  I could have…I should have…

But instead of achieving these virtuous things, I was attracted to trouble makers who had no focus, no ambition, no goals of any worth.  I was attracted to carefree, lazy, godless people who only cared about having a good time and so I became just like them.  I managed to graduate from school after 4 years there, but aside from my paper, I have nothing to show for my time there other than heartache and regret at all the opportunities that I foolishly threw away.

These thoughts and many more have been a heavy burden on my heart for a long time. The sobering reality that I cannot ever go back and do it over has haunted me.  If only I could go back, I would do it right.

This may seem petty in the grand scheme of the world and world events.  It may seem petty in comparison to what most people consider true loss, myself included. I am not naive to tragedy and real loss, but loss happens on many levels and it impacts us in many different ways.  For me, this was a loss that landed squarely on my shoulders.  I was completely to blame for the collective loss of 4 years of my life that I have dubbed “The Lost Years”.   My sin; my own rebellion did this to me.

But the Lord restores.

After 15 years, the Lord has given me a new opportunity and I have the chance again to seize every good thing from this new window of time.  It’s like a smaller-lesser version of the Parable of the Lost Son has happened to me: I had it made, went away, squandered everything, was a loser, returned to the Lord, committed my life to Him again, and after several years of wondering what could have been ‘if only’, I am being restored in a very tangible and pleasantly emotional way.  Of course, the Parable of the Lost Son concerns the eternal implications of being lost and found, but it speaks to my heart greatly when I consider it as also applying to my earthly life and what I have lost due to my rebellion.  I praise God that He has saved me from eternal destruction.  I also praise Him that He is able to restore me in my life on earth as well.

The heartache of loss and regret I’ve carried for 15 years is the fuel that keeps hot the fire that is refining me.  I am grateful for this new door that has opened to me. To walk through it means that I must leave the room of emptiness I have been trapped in for so long.  I get to finally leave that room and shut the door behind me. I get to walk through the door of opportunity once again and make the most of what awaits me on the other side of it.  Just the knowledge alone that there is a new, fresh chapter opening up to me has restored my hope, my outlook on my life, my outlook on myself, my perception of my own worthiness, all of which had been what seemed irreversibly damaged because of my own sin.

The Lord restores.

As the children of God, we have the promise from our Lord that He makes things new again.  The Lord restores.  “Behold, I am doing a new thing!” Though Job did nothing to deserve the horrible things that happened to him, Scriptures say that, when Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored all of his fortunes and blessed him even more (Job 42:10-17).  Likewise, Joseph and many other people in Scripture suffered loss through no fault of their own.  But they were restored.

King David, who was directly responsible for heart-wrenching losses because of his sins (the child he created with Bathsheba died and he watched of 70,000 die by plague because he took a census of his warrior count instead of trusting the power of his Lord, to name a couple) also experienced the restoration of the Lord.

Does restoration mean that we get back exactly what we lost? No, it does not.  But the effects of loss take a toll on our spirit, our minds and our bodies.  As the saying goes, perception is reality.  Through the renewing of our minds in our communion with the Lord, He restores us.  This restoration may sometimes manifest itself in our physical world and belongings as well, but He restores US.

Praise the Lord for second chances.  Praise the Lord that He chastens, disciplines and then gently helps us to stand.  Praise the Lord for the wilderness, for when we have wandered through it on our own accord only to be left parched and barely hanging on, He offers the oasis to quench our thirst and give us life again. Praise the Lord for the experience of The Lost Years in whatever form they come, for without the acute and sharp knowledge that we have lost something precious, we take for granted what we have, particularly time.  Praise the Lord for new beginnings, the reminder of which we have every single day with every rising sun.  Praise the Lord that the earth and everything in it belongs to Him, for everything is at His disposal and perfect judgment.  Praise the Lord for His unfailing Love, for without it all is lost and can never be found.

I write this entry from the perspective of one who has experienced the rush of being set free from a spiritual and emotional bondage; the heavy shackles of regret and longing.

However, just last week, I wore those shackles.  Yet, I knew I am loved by Christ Jesus.  I knew I would be restored, whether in this life or in the eternal life He has given me.  Christ’s love is sufficient for everything and I have lived my life for several years now trusting in His love every single day.  I did not know that it was His desire to help ease my mind over my version of The Lost Years, but now I know.

If you are experiencing “The Lost Years” now or if you are lamenting your past, I am writing this for you.  The Lord restores.  The Lord can restore you if something precious has been taken from you. His love is sufficient.  The Lord can restore you if you are suffering by your own hand, your own sin.  His love is sufficient.  The Lord can restore refreshing waters into the desert wilderness you live in.  Whatever our circumstance, however seemingly hopeless, the Lord is infinitely bigger.  He can handle our mess and restore us.  Have hope.  Pray.  Answer your conscience.  Sin no more.  Whether in this life or in life eternal or both, the Lord is Mighty and He restores and makes new again. What an amazing thing it is to be the recipient of a gift so wonderful.  Praise the Lord.