Describing the indescribable: Depression

We all have our days that are not as good as others. Depression is something that some struggle with more than others. My heart goes out for those that struggle because I have struggled as well. That is why I found this poem, written by Sue Lubbers, to be something helpful. The idea that a Christian can struggle with depression is not foreign. David Murray, writing at the Gospel Coalition blog, says it well:

Three things make this poem especially touching. First, it was written by a Christian, which actually adds another layer to the suffering. The Christian with depression not only loses physical energy, intellectual ability, and emotional activity, but the most precious thing in their life feels lost – their spiritual relationship with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Second, the poem is breathtakingly honest. It does not attempt to gloss over or minimize the horrific thoughts and feelings that stalk and haunt the soul in this desolate valley. It is so far removed from the shallow and artificial triumphalism of so much of modern Christianity. It is much more reminiscent of the deep and realistic piety we find in many of the Psalms, in Job, and in Jeremiah.

Third, the poem holds out great hope for those still passing through these deep waters. To get maximum benefit, don’t read across the two columns. Rather, read the whole of the first column. Then start reading down the second column, comparing it as you go with the parallel line in the first column. What a transformation! The Lord has revolutionized this dear believer’s life. If you, or a loved one, are still in column one, then read column two and see what our almighty and gracious God can do in the most desperate of situations.

Some of us will battle this constantly, but there is hope in a mighty, loving, caring God who is there.

God, marriage and family

A recommendation from Mark Driscoll:

About the book, from Crossway Books:

We live in a time of crisis regarding marriage and the family, and only by a return to the biblical foundation can these institutions be rebuilt. To provide an integrated, biblical treatment of the full range of marriage and family issues, the authors of God, Marriage, and Family examine what Scripture says about God’s purposes for humans in their marriage and family interactions. Their examination covers the special issues stemming from marriage, childrearing, singleness, homosexuality, and divorce and remarriage. With study questions and points for further discussion, this book is a comprehensive yet concise resource for anyone seeking a Scriptural response to our culture’s complex challenges to God’s intentions for marriage and family.

To get Andreas Kostenberger’s “God, Marriage and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation,” go here.

What does physical attraction have to do with marriage?

Well, if you’re trying to think biblically about your marriage, it shouldn’t be a focus. That is how John Piper explained it recently:

The word “biblical” in this question is perhaps intended to take me to a text. And of course the text that comes to mind is, when it speaks to beauty, 1 Peter 3:3: “Don’t let your beauty be the outward beauty of the wearing of gold, and the braiding of hair, and the wearing of clothes.”

It doesn’t say “fine clothes.” It’s just “clothes,” so you know it’s not an absolute, as though not wearing clothes is good thing. It means the jewelry, the hair, and the clothes are not the focus. And our culture needs to hear that unbelievably. Marriages need to hear it, men need to hear it. That’s not the main focus of beauty. The focus should be the inner spirit.

So women should ask, “What kind of spirit should I cultivate for my man?” as well as, “How should I eat and dress and exercise for my man?” And the man should do the same: “What kind of inner spirit makes her flourish?” because there is a kind of spirit in a man that kills a woman or frightens or bores her.

And a man shouldn’t mainly be pumping iron. Because, frankly, most women could care very little about what their husbands look like, unless they’re just making fools of themselves. They want a spirit, a strength, a humility, a nobility. They want someone to pick them up and sweep them away.

In their worst moments women don’t look at pornography, usually. Mostly they read novels about exciting romances, because their husbands are so boring!

And so it cuts both ways. I think we husbands should labor not so much with the outward man, and the women shouldn’t labor so much with the outward woman. Rather, we should all cultivate the kind of beauty that we all deeply long for in relationships.

A marriage is a relationship. When you’re old, gray, wrinkled, overweight (or underweight), squinty, bent over, and hobbling along, maybe you’ll be holding hands at 85 because of the inner beauty.

When a believer commits suicide

It is a tragic thing when someone commits suicide. A life ended prematurely leaves questions, raises doubts, shakes our beliefs. Suicide touches the lives of many, either through a family relationship or through acquaintance. It is so shocking that one cannot ignore it, yet it is something, because it is so disturbing, that is not spoken about widely.

A valuable resource to help that discussion comes from Desiring God and John Piper, who have published services that Pastor Piper has led for those who have committed suicide. For the families who have graciously shared what must have been one of the most painful moments in their lives, we can be grateful in that these powerful messages can give insight, comfort and guidance to those who have or who are struggling with similar circumstances.

From one of those services, the funeral message for Luke Kenneth Anderson, Piper says this about suicide committed by someone who is a believer in Jesus Christ:

[L]et me put a biblical stake in the ground and then fasten to it a banner of hope.

The stake is this: True Christians can commit suicide. Or to put it another way: There is nothing unique or peculiar about the final act of life that makes it determinative in validating or nullifying our salvation. Or let me say it another way: The final season of faith with all its battles and failures is not the only season of faith that will bear witness in the Last Day that we were born again.

Piper, in this message and others, explains with expositional precision why he believes this way. These are questions we don’t ask ourselves or perhaps don’t allow ourselves to ask. But nonetheless they are important because, like my daughter experienced this past week, there will be times when you are confronted with a tragic suicide by someone you knew and questions will come.

The messages are all available online to read or even listen to the audio.

Funeral Meditation for a Christian Who Commits Suicide

Funeral Meditation for a Christian Who Commits Suicide (1988)

Also, this may also be helpful:

Can Christians be depressed?

What to say to someone who is depressed, angry, doubting or skeptical

If we call ourselves Christians, then we are to take to heart the Bible’s instructions to bear one another’s burdens. And, in this day and age, there are many things we are burdened with whether it’s finances, relationships, family, health or career. At the Desiring God blog, pastor John Piper gives great counsel about what to say to those who are depressed, angry, doubting or skeptical:

1. Don’t be offended.

First, resist the temptation to be offended. Don’t pout or take your ball and go home. That’s what you may feel like. They wanted to talk, and here they are throwing my suggestions back in my face with a dismissive attitude. Don’t leave. Not yet. “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NKJV).

2. Listen.

Second, listen to their responses. Part of your power is not only what you say, but how they feel about the way you listen. If your truth produces empathetic ears, it will feel more compelling. This listening will be a witness. In 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Paul describes the kind of engagement that may set people free from sin and error. One feature is “patiently enduring evil.”

3. End with hope.

Third, when you have spoken all the experiential counsel you can think of, and they seem to have demeaned it all, don’t let them have the last word of despair. You leave the last word of hope.

Read the whole thing.

Getting from God what we need when we need it

Of First Importance is a great site that, each day, “provide(s) a thoughtful quote to help you remember what’s ‘of first importance’: the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

I especially enjoyed today’s entry:

“Take Heart”

“God’s grace means that I can rest assured that I’ll have everything I need to be what he wants me to be and to do what he wants me to do in the situation in which he’s placed me.

I’m no longer restricted to the limits of my own strength and wisdom. By his grace, I’ve a new identity and a new potential. I’m a child of God; the risen Christ now lives inside of me. I need no longer fear people or circumstances; I don’t have to feel weak in the face of suffering or temptation, because I no longer rest in the resources of my own ability. I’m in Christ and he’s in me.

This new identity gives me new potential as I face the realities of life in this bent and broken world. God’s grace gives me reason to ‘take heart.’”

—Paul David Tripp, “Psalm 27: Take Heart”

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Valuable life lessons courtesy of Sears, Roebuck and Co.

After much urging from my family, I bought a new lawnmower last week at the local Sears store. Like I told Cut the grassmy wife, I’m very comfortable buying electronics, but buying tools and machinery leaves me more uncomfortable. I looked at several stores before we settled on the 625 series Craftsman mower.

My current mower, a Snapper, I bought 13 years ago for $75 from one of my neighbors. He used to go to estate sales and buy lawnmowers and then fix them up. So I don’t know how old this mower really is, but I got a great deal on it and it has run for years. Still, my family hates it because it is loud and is not the easiest to push around the yard. I’m the only one who mows our yard, so I don’t care. But now that the kids are old enough, we decided it was time to get a more family-friendly mower. And now the time has come.

Because I want to use my new mower the right way, I’ve been reading through the owner’s manual. You know, how to use it correctly, maintain it and generally avoid cutting off a needed toe or finger. As I’ve read it, I realize that it is sort of like a bible of lawn mowing. There are things to do and things not to do on the path to happy mowing. Here are some of them that I’ve read:

  • If you feel uneasy on a slope, do not mow it
  • Clear the area of objects such as rocks, toys, wire, bones, sticks, etc. which could be picked up and thrown by the blade. Bones? Maybe cutting the grass isn’t the problem.
  • Be sure the area is clear of other people before mowing. Stop the machine if anyone enters the area. That’s not a great incentive to get that lawn mowed: “I saw someone while I was mowing so I stopped.”
  • Never direct discharged material toward anyone. It’s a lawnmower, not a gun.
  • Never assume that children will remain where you last saw them. So true. That is, unless it’s summer, they’re teenagers and they are watching television.
  • Never run a machine inside a closed area. It’s easy. The lawnmower is for the grass, the vacuum cleaner is for the carpet. Lawnmower outside. Vacuum inside.
  • And finally: Mower blades are sharp and can cut. And you thought this machine was for BENDING the grass.

Who sent this?

I came across a post from Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs detailing his receiving this card at home and which church sent it. I think we can all relate to the situation, so I think his way of dealing with it is challenging, convicting and thought-provoking for all of us who call ourselves Christians.

Calling card

Read all these posts, they’re right on.

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How not to lose your faith at college

It has been a blessing to attend the same church for more than 12 years. I love my church family, and it has been wonderful to have grown closer to them by growing closer to our Heavenly Father during that time. And like all families, we have children, teach them and then send them off to the world. It is a great privilege and huge responsibility.

Each year, we have children who’ve grown up in our church who, hopefully, have heard the gospel message and God has changed their hearts. Many of those kids head off to college where, sad to say, the attitude toward people who believe in God is less than kind. It does us no good if we raise children whose faith can only survive in an incubator of the local church but shrivels when they head off to college.

That’s why I was pleased to come across an article on Focus on the Family’s e-zine (Web magazine, for those who wonder) Boundless entitled “How Not to Lose Your Faith in College.” The author shares some basic steps a youngster can take to make sure their faith is nurtured rather than hindered when they go away from home. If you have a child that is nearing the end of their high school career and will be heading away to college this fall, I’d encourage you both to read the article and talk about it together.