Tag Archive: Depression


Last week I introduced the concept of being a healing Christian, ministry and church. Since my buddy Dwayne informed me he wanted to “heal” in 2019, “healing” has been coming up over and over again.

Remember, I’m not talking about physical healing.  It is more of a healing that comes from the inside out.  With that in mind, Jesus didn’t separate the body, mind and soul.  He actually kept the three together since they are so vitally linked together.  Let’s face it.  If the body hurts, our mind and soul will hurt.   If our mind is constantly depressed or preoccupied, our body and soul will suffer.  If our soul is sour what makes us think the other two won’t be?  Jesus kept the three together since we are such a delicate creation.  

We do not believe in Jesus to get an easy life.  If that were sound theology, then the poor apostles were given a bum deal.  They all died a horrible death except for John.  Even with John, it is believed he was placed in boiling water and later exiled to the island of Patmos.  At that time there were no resorts on the island.  It was a hard life.  

Paul, the apostle, in Second Corinthians says we suffer so we can minister to fellow sufferers.  Our world says we should not have to suffer.  They are wrong.  This world is suffering.  I have yet to meet anyone who has not had to suffer real pain in this life.  There is the pain of broken bones and surgery.  The pain that sears the soul is broken relationships, betrayal, abandonment and lies.  Best friends can be the worst friends.  Family pain is brutal.  Our bones will heal.  Our bodies will mend.  But our minds and souls hurt for a lifetime.

Recently, I came across a lady who though no fault of her own experienced the death of a child.  While functional, she could not get the feelings of guilt and failure out of her heart.  She will probably die a broken person.  Now here is where we have to take a hard look.  What is faith in Christ at this point?

Some will say the broken lady does not have enough faith.  Some might say she has a false impression of who Jesus really is.  Others might say she never had faith.  I talked to her.  Without question she believed and believes in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So, what is the problem?  Does she not pray enough?  No, she prays daily.  Does she not read the Bible?  Nope, she does.  Did she quit on the church?  Every Sunday she is there.  So, what’s the problem?  She is a human being, just like you and me.

Sunday is not a day to put on a front like we have it all together.  Quite the opposite.  It should be a place where broken people can come and find their hope and healing in Jesus.  It is a healing that takes a lifetime.  

This gets us down to what it means to be a soul healer.  First and foremost we must embrace the human condition.  It has been a long time since I have come across anyone that doesn’t have a sense that we are broken.  I once had an on going conversation with a psychology teacher.  In the middle, he asked if I was a Christian.  Of course I responded in the affirmative.  I asked him how he figured it out.  He replied, “You know something is broken, and we have not come up with the solution.”  I asked him if he could give an answer to the human sin issue.  He replied, “No, and all our science fails to answer it as well.”  Of course it does.  What’s broke is broke.  

I don’t have to point out brokenness when someone comes for counsel as a believer or a non-believer.  Moral goodness is relative.  When brought under the microscope of God’s holiness, we are in big trouble.  We know it.  Our own arrogance doesn’t want to acknowledge it especially in this critical culture.  

While it seems like a hopeless condition there is healing.  It isn’t healing that takes away the pain or the memory.  Not at all.  Actually pain is a great reminder of the need.  That’s the problem with great prosperity.  We can insulate ourselves from brokenness to some extent.  It causes us to avoid the truth.  Once realized, the healing is the ability to get up the next day and find a new normal.  

Jesus never promised the same old, same old.  No, the gospel says there is a new beginning.  We take with us the scars and yet-to-be-fixed brokenness and find a new normal based on the hope and the truth that God allowed us to suffer to bring healing to someone else.  In the meantime, we can get out of bed the next morning since we are in the hands of the Lord Jesus who gave us the example of suffering to bring healing.

How do we get out of bed?  Dependent upon grace that God has already granted us and the grace we turn around and give to fellow sufferers.  A healing church allows God to do what God does instead of rescuing the hurting and becoming their little “s” savior.  To do that involves truly walking in the Spirit.  Love the unlovable.  Have joy in the rain and the sun.  Be peace among the chaos.   Exercise patience. Practice meekness to conquer the self-serving pride.  Be kind.  A gentle touch heals a bitter wound.  Encourage self-control for the hurting,  as they tend to hurt others in their suffering.    

To heal we rest on God’s path and timing.  In the meantime, let’s walk together.  My name’s John.  What’s yours?  I have a story and I would love to hear yours. 

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Here we go!  Thanksgiving has just passed and we are on our way to Christmas.  Not counting Christmas Day we are 29 days away.  That’s right…29 days.  I don’t know what is or is not a shopping day anymore.  I think they all are. 

I wish Thanksgiving could be more than one day.  It is our family’s favorite day of the year.  There is no pressure of gift giving or expected custom other than to be at the table when mom told us to be there.  No schedule other than the Dallas Cowboys game.  I’m not sure anyone was awake at 4:00 p.m.  That’s the joy of Thanksgiving.

We are going away for a few days.  With the grandkids we have tickets to go on the Polar Express Train.  It is inspired from the popular book by Chris Van Allsburg about a magical train ride on Christmas Eve.  I think it’s quite funny we are going on a train ride when Christmas is like a locomotive going full blast through our lives.  All Aboard! 

As the train called “Life” gets going we can get caught in the rush and miss so many and much around us.  Yes, it is a time for family and friends.  Yes, we buy a present to show our love or admiration.  We might do some special things for special people.  However, in the process we can get caught in the rat race of the holidays.  Sometimes it feels like the rats are winning.

Our lives are crazy enough without 3 back-to-back holidays.  I meet so many people who are working hard just to keep their nose above the water line.  I meet many fellow weary travelers on the exhausting road of life.  Now, with the season it gets ramped up.  I’m concerned we are over stimulated and some will break under the pressure.

As a chaplain for the Bluffton Police Department we are very much aware the holiday season can be rough.  Some have experienced loss and grieve their loved ones.  Others have serious  struggles and cannot relate to the “joy” of the season.  It leaves them feeling isolated and alone.  For a few the season propels them deeper into their depression and hopelessness as thoughts of suicide deceive them into grievous actions.

As we hustle and bustle though the season slow down a bit and look around.   There are plenty that not only need to hear of Jesus, they need to see him.

Consider:

  allowing someone to go ahead of you in the long lines

  asking a waitress how you can pray for her as you say grace

  saying “thank you” to everyone who fills our many needs

  actively forgive someone this season you hold blame against

  inviting someone to a meal or a cup of coffee

  being a bearer of peace in times of chaos

  do something out of the ordinary for someone in need

  baking an extra pie and give it away

  buying a few Walmart gift cards, stand out front and give them away to someone who 

looks like they are in need

  doing the outrageous

  making it a point to talk to people instead of walking by them every day

  giving double tips (I’m sure they could use it)

  being gracious, extending mercy and loving others including your enemy (Jesus   

didn’t give us an out)

The greatest gift you can give those around you is to slow down and enjoy them.  Even our kids have enough stimulation from outside sources.  They don’t need more.  They need us.  

There was a young man who I knew many years ago who at the ripe age of 15 was already wound around the axle.  We were walking in King’s Dominion and he was so bent on not being able to ride certain rides for the 3rd or 4th time.  I looked at him and with his parents around bellowed, “Dude, you need to slow down and smell the roses.”  I didn’t realize we were actually in an area with beautiful red roses everywhere.  

This holiday season, slow it down instead of speeding it up.  Say “No” to some parties.  How many do you need to go to anyway?  How many useless gifts litter our shelves?  Instead, make time to look someone in the eye and talk with them.  

Impart good tidings on them.   Let the hustle and bustle of consumerism be drowned out by the love, grace and mercy we can bestow on others as it has been given to us by the one we celebrate on December 25th.  

We carefully opened the front door.  Originally, we tried the back door; however, it would not budge.  The old house was fragile, to say the least.  There were not any “No Trespassing” signs.  Being the picture hounds we are, we thought it was worth the adventure.  It was.  The late day sun barely crept in the windows.  The odd paint colors contrasted as we went room to room.  Like most abandoned buildings we have surveyed, the kitchen ignited the imagination.  The old sinks and tubs in the old houses always invite thoughts of a functional family that many moons ago lived in the old house.

My friends and I have explored many old abandoned buildings together in our various excursions.  While the Sheldon church remains are the top of the list, there have been plenty of other interesting places.  We have been in three old abandoned churches, one middle school, a few barns, various warehouses, and too many houses to count.  The one referred to earlier was built in the 1800’s and was barely hanging on.  

There is something about abandoned buildings.  It doesn’t matter how many “No Trespassing” signs are posted, there is a draw that cannot be resisted.  I have not been to an abandoned town, but I sure would love to.  If anyone knows how to get to one email me.  NOW!  

Recently we vacationed in Disney World.  We caught a show over at the campground.  Next to the campground is the long abandoned water park, River Country.  I remember taking our kids there.  Now, it’s fenced off and left to nature.  I could not just walk by.  No possible way.  With camera in hand, I found holes in the fence.  There wasn’t much to see from that venue.  If only there was an opening in the fence.  Then again, I would not want to be exiled from Disney.  My family would not be too happy, especially my wife! 

Buildings become abandoned for various reasons.  Some lose their usefulness as time and community change around them.  Others become dilapidated over time.  A few are simply left to rot by their owners.  Occasionally, an event of some sort forces the evacuation of the area, and, due to the consequences, no one can seem to figure out what to do.  There might be legal issues.  There are often financial difficulties.

Behind every time-warped structure is a story.  If only the walls could talk.    

Along with abandoned buildings, there are abandoned lives.  We see them from time to time.  They sit on street corners, live in nursing homes, and wander the streets.  It’s harder to find some in rural settings.  They camp out back in the woods hiding from society.  These are, without question, are the “least of these” Jesus referred to in Matthew 25.

There are others right in front of us.  Divorce has created a whole group, mainly consisting of moms and kids struggling to keep their heads above the water.  Addiction isolates and moves many into the abandoned column.  They wear out their families and often live in isolation, some functional, many not.  The depressed, mentally ill, and disabled are often abandoned to their thoughts, building a wall, keeping many at bay.  One of the largest abandoned groups are those convicted of a major crime.  The list can go on and on.  

Just like buildings, their lives often are mired in the past.  They wear their loved ones out as well as anybody else that comes in constant contact with them.  While writing this article, I can see what happens.  It’s “us” and then “them.”  Yet, I have learned we are all one decision, moment, or event away from being abandoned.  Our usefulness and relativity to our community may change.  We age.  Just like the old buildings, forces out of our control, a legal or financial crisis, can move us into the unwanted category.  It does not take much in this fast-paced world to have one looking on the outside in.  I haven’t mentioned sin that always separates and isolates us. 

I find no reference to Jesus being attracted to abandoned buildings like I am.  He was constantly reaching out to isolated, marginalized, abandoned men, women and children.  Instead of demanding they get their act together, he poured his love, grace and mercy out to them.  His call to “Follow me” was one that brought the unclean back into community.  In Him we find our value and purpose.  He doesn’t put on a coat of paint, he redeems and restores us.  The Master architect is at work.

Well, we got through one crazy week with Hurricane Florence knocking at the door.  She would not let us sleep, would she?  It seems like every time we got comfortable she came a knocking once again.  Whether one evacuated or stayed, we lost a week for sure.  The good news is that is all we lost.  

Let us remember to keep in our prayers those to our north whose lives have been turned upside down with catastrophic flooding and destruction.  Along with our prayers, some may consider going with a relief group offering a hand or maybe a shoulder for someone to cry or lean upon.  Others will purchase necessary products for the days ahead, providing supplies at local drop points.  If you think about buying one case of water…buy two.  Others will need to write a check to agencies and groups who will have feet on the ground as soon as the water recedes.  Take a few moments this week and consider how the Lord is calling on each reader to help a neighbor in need.  

As the clouds head north west and the winds diminish, we offer our thanks to the Lord for sparing us.  As I was contemplating His grace, events during the lost week have impressed upon me once again that we don’t need a literal storm to have needy neighbors.  There are storms in many lives that need a lot of attention and support especially from the Christian community. 

Maybe in all the hustle and bustle we forget to truly remember those who still suffer from the events on 9.11 seventeen years ago.  We have a generation in their 30’s that is sometimes hard to understand.  They sat in their classrooms and watched their world change right before their eyes.  Any sense of safety and security was dashed.  Their interpretation of life and life events changed dramatically that one day.  Let us all consider how the grace Jesus gives us then to be on display for them.  

Maybe we missed the recent shootings that have erupted in Bluffton and Hilton Head.  One young life was lost, and families were greatly disrupted.  Our neighbors are settling issues with guns.  How do we love them well?  How do we display the gospel to them instead of sheltering ourselves within our own walls?  Sometimes I don’t know.  I do know we, the Christian community, have an answer to these storms, and yet I hope we don’t evacuate.

This week, while most of us were worried about our roof and windows, I know of people who got really bad news from the doctor.  A young lady was still suffering the effects of a brain tumor.  Her storm clouds were building rapidly.  An elderly woman needs medication that costs $2,000.00, and that’s with insurance.  The winds were gathering velocity as she melted under the pressure.  A young man made a bad decision and lost his job.  He didn’t lose it.  He was fired.  His wife and kids were engulfed with the flood of emotions and fear.  Another needed a serious operation.  A young man whose life spiraled out of control entered detox.  A dear friend became a ward of the state and was placed in a group home living the remaining days of his life amongst strangers.  He lost his freedom.  He lost his home.  What troubled him the most is he lost his cats.  

All around us are people trying to weather the storms of life.  While they need help of a different kind they first of all need someone to care enough to engage them.  They need someone who won’t forget them.  A lot of times the storms we create will tend to ostracize us from our own family and community.  Who will help those who suffer silently while the world is transfixed on the Weather Channel?  Who will let them know it’s safe to come home?

In the past, it was the church that responded to the destruction left by hurricane divorce, or hurricane addiction and hurricane job loss and the others that begin to form.  Jesus did.  He came to redeem but he also took the time to touch lives that were spiraling in the tornados of despair.  

It’s more than a check for a few dollars.  It’s more than one week on a work crew.  Eventually the work relief crews will leave, but the destruction remains.  The next great event will take our ADD attention span away from North Carolina as well as the neighbor who might live 15 feet away.  

It’s a way of life.  All we have to do is look around.  Sometimes others are touching us as the woman suffering from bleeding touched Jesus as he walked by.  Are you aware that someone might be reaching out to you?  In a few days it will be easy to drive north on I95 and not see the towns and people affected by Florence.  Jesus walked the streets and never ignored the destroyed lives around him?  Neither should we. 

I limped into church today.  I shed a few tears as well.  As I stood up to lead in prayer, all I could see were people I’ve walked with the past 12 years and I know their limp.  Sometimes our limp becomes us.  Like Jacob in the Old Testament.  God touched his hip, and he limped the rest of his life.  God does that.  He causes us to limp so we can slow down and know him.  We tend to want to take the lead instead of follow.  

I was reading an article the other day that talked about hurting Christians.  The author must limp as well.  He points to four elements that often leave us far from the spiritual high that others seem to relish.  The four characteristics that suck the life out of us are: isolation, loneliness, shame and worthlessness.  Often all four are a result of sin that finds us.  Other times we have no problem finding it on our own. 

It’s hard to think that in our current world we might struggle with isolation or loneliness.  To me they’re kissing cousins of the evil world.  We don’t need demon possession in our world.  Isolation and loneliness are evil’s best friends   

Church can often promote isolation and loneliness.  One time when you limp into church and someone asks, “How are you today?,” tell them.  For some reason we have this idea that Christians are not supposed to have issues much less sin issues.  When the body of Christ gathers, it should be a safe haven for those who limp.  Unfortunately, the local bar is the only safe haven.  In church you can call yourself a sinner; just don’t say what kind.  

When someone unloads his or her burdens, the kissing cousin of loneliness tag teams with isolation.  I’ve often pointed out that Jesus indeed answers our needs.  What we have failed to learn is that the Holy Spirit resides in believers.  It is through believers that he moves and his Holy Spirit flows.  We are the conduit for the power of God.  If we don’t answer the need of the limping, hurting brother or sister somebody or something else will.  

I honestly believe the main reason churches are struggling to keep people in the pews is their inability to care well for the limping, weary traveler on the path of life.  We have decided to choose, as a friend of mine who struggles to get out of bed every Sunday morning calls it, “a faith defined by unicorns and rainbows.”  As a friend asked this week, “Doesn’t Jesus want me to be happy?”  “Yes,” I answered, “but only by walking in the ways of the Lord as defined by the Holy Scriptures.”  Let’s just say he left quickly.  

Limping into church often lets others know we are suffering.  Since we learned nobody wants to be around suffering anymore (Apostle Paul said it’s the way into the kingdom of God) each limp sends impulses of shame to the heart.  Surely, if no one else is limping, something is wrong with us.  I asked that this morning, “What’s wrong with me?”  Maybe I’m not walking with the Lord.  Maybe I’m depressed.  Maybe I’m not praying enough.  Maybe I’m too serious.  Maybe I’m this.  Maybe I’m that.  Maybe.  Maybe.  Since no one wants to connect with the limp or tears, you know what that shame will do next week?  Keep us in bed.  

Eventually, as we wallow in our pain, worthlessness will take us to places we thought we would never go.  All four isolation, loneliness, shame and worthlessness – pounce on the wounded, leaving them paralyzed and numb.

A friend recently told me his mother died and he was absent from church for six weeks and not a soul called on him or showed up at the funeral.  He was on the path.  

Another soul talked about suffering the rejection by her friends due to a wayward husband.   There seems to be an unspoken fear of the single woman.  Instead of embracing the crippled woman, she is forced to limp in and out.

Jesus told his disciples a story.  He said there was a king who was having a banquet.  He invited the expected guests; the ones who usually attend a king’s banquet.  Only they had plenty of excuses.  So the king told his disciples to go out into the highway and byways and invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind” to his banquet.  I found out today in Luke 14 that there is nothing wrong with my limp.  There is nothing wrong with your limp either.  Line up the wheelchairs and the crutches next Sunday.  The crippled are coming to the banquet! Worship well!  We got the invite.

I met the my friend for breakfast as we normally do. We are slowly building a friendship meeting bi-weekly, having good conversations about life. We come from different backgrounds but seek the peace of God in our lives. We are weary travelers on the road of life, and it’s a pleasure to have someone walk a few miles alongside.
This day I didn’t feel like talking. I wanted to complain. Please do not think that pastors don’t go through times of depression, anger, discouragement and disappointment. If a pastor tells you he doesn’t, either he is lying or he has not been in the position long enough. So, complain I did.
My friend is a talker. It’s his nature. After he commented that I seemed tired and asked how I was, he sat and listened. For the next 10 to 15 minutes, he said very little. I actually stopped once thinking he wanted to interject some sort of wisdom. Instead he sat there with the strangest grin on his face. So, I continued to clearly let him know where I was, and I was not in a good place. The sheep were winning. This shepherd was not happy. By the way, “happy” is one of the least used words in the Bible. Probably because our state of happiness is based on circumstances not internal peace.
I don’t know if I was testing my new friend to see how far I could go till he either would try to fix me (please don’t try), or placate me with trite sayings, or use out of text Bible verses. Regardless, he didn’t do any of those relationship killers. Instead, he listened well. HIs first statement was true as he pointed out, “You seem depressed and angry. You know they often go together.” He was dead on.
At that point I expected him to start the “fix it” or tell me about what he would do. We all do that a lot. What works for one person is not necessarily, and, actually I will say seldom, is the recipe for anyone else. That’s the major problem with self-help books. We all have different baggage, interpretive lenses, and family histories. What is really happening at those times is the shifting of attention to ourselves.
Instead, my friend asked me if he could tell me about the time he was institutionalized with a Jesus fixation. It was more than a Jesus fixation. He actually believed he was Jesus incarnate. Yes, he had a mental illness. I was not sure where he was going with this one but we continued walking together.
He told me about his thought patterns. When one really believes he is Jesus and nobody will listen, depression and anger hitch a ride. Meanwhile, when one thinks he is Jesus coming off his “rightness” doesn’t happen. Everybody else is wrong. They have to be; they aren’t Jesus. It went on for a few minutes, not real long.
At first I was thinking, what does this have to do with anything. We have talked about this before. I began to hear instead of listen, or do I have that one backwards? He began to talk about taking on a self-induced suffering since no one would come along with him. It was at that point the Holy Spirit clued me in. Suddenly, I was massively humbled. I got it. I didn’t like it but I got it.
It isn’t only the mentally ill who may have problems with thinking they are Jesus. It’s all of us. I’ve heard people say, “We all want to be god.” Only the word “god” is too generic. The name “Jesus” puts skin on it. Let’s face it, when life isn’t going the way we want it to go, we become complainers. If no one listens, we can easily become angry. If nothing happens, we can slip into an anger-induced depression. Why? It’s not because I want God to do things my way. It’s because I want to be Jesus. I want to be right. I want people to respond to “ME!” I want things to go my way. If they don’t, I will self-inflict “poor pitiful me” suffering to prove I am who I claim to be. We all do this, only we don’t want to acknowledge it.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, the sin goes much deeper then we think. And Jesus keeps pouring out his grace over and over and over. Good thing he is the real Jesus and not me or you.