Archive for August, 2014

The Silent Masquerade: Unmasking Depression

Posted: August 19, 2014 by liftyourvoice1 in Depression, Suicide
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Depression. It’s a word hardly spoken but a condition deeply felt by many. According to dosomething.org, about 20 million people in the U.S. deal with depression every year, and 25% of young adults will have an episode of depression before age 24. If depression is so common, why don’t we talk about it more? Why do we act as if those who struggle with it are flawed, or carry a contagious virus?

The answer is simple: the topic makes us uncomfortable.

If we haven’t dealt with it, we have no idea how to relate to those who suffer, and even if we have experienced it, we’re reluctant to be transparent with others who could use our words of comfort. We’re afraid. We’re afraid of being uncomfortable and we’re afraid of how others may perceive us when they find out we have struggled with depression, or, even worse, are currently struggling with depression behind a smiling face. We fear rejection, and so the masquerade and silence continue.
The silence must end.

Christians are not spared, nor are they any less “Christian” for having dealt with depression (take David’s pleading Psalms and the life of Job for example). If anything, I would argue that dark times in my life have made me more loving and understanding towards others while deepening my relationship with God. Often pain is required to drive us back to the foot of the cross and remind us that our Savior is all we have and all we need.

I remember when one of my relatives went through a tough time in her life and had to take psychiatric medication. It weirded me out. Would the medication make her act differently? Would she be herself? I’m happy to say, that her trials made her a better person. She grew in God and developed healthy self-esteem and good habits, both spiritual and physical. My apprehension grew into admiration. I admired her for the strong woman she became through her trials.

There’s so much I could say about depression. I could tell you that that you can be biologically inclined towards depression (like a hereditary disorder). I could tell you that not taking care of yourself, such as not getting enough sleep and not eating well, can add to the possibility of depression. I could tell you that not controlling your emotions and letting them control you will lead to dark times. I could even say that God is not punishing you when you’re depressed and He hurts to see you hurt when you’re struggling to make meaning out of sadness.

But none of this helps when depression has taken control of your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit, because depression has a nasty habit of hijacking your life. When the body fights physical pain, the mind is free and able to think above the circumstances. But when the mind is ill, when serotonin levels in the brain dip below normal, the mind flounders like a fish on land. The mind is clouded, and the one organ that controls all other organs and responses (the brain), is spinning out of control.

If you’re facing depression, you have to be open to getting help. You may need to take medication, go to counseling, and through iron will, over-ride your hijacked mind. As soon as you can, you need to start doing the right things, even if you don’t feel like it. You need to exercise, eat healthy foods, make sleep a priority, and embrace relationships and transparency with those you trust. And you need to go to God daily, and moment by moment. You need to embrace His grace, and you need to be gracious and patient with yourself. Be patient with the process. Believe that things will get better, because they will with time. Believe too that you matter and God cares about you immeasurably.

What if you’re not facing depression, but know someone who is? Be patient with them. Pray for them. Let them know you’re always there for them if they need to talk, or just need someone to hang out with, but don’t pressure them. Keep tabs on them, and encourage them to get psychiatric help if necessary. The brain, like any other organ of the body, can get tired and overwhelmed and sometimes needs a little extra tender loving care.
I pray that you seek God’s face wherever you may be right now: in a valley, on the mountaintop, or somewhere in between. I also pray that if you’re in the midst of a “mountain-top” experience now, that you not forget those in the valleys. Take time to stop and help your brothers and sisters in Christ as we are all loved by the same Father.

May God’s peace and love calm your hearts and minds,
Larkin

PS: I like to repeat this verse to myself when I start to feel worried and stressed, to keep myself focused on who I am in Christ: “For God has not given us a spirit of Fear, but of Power, and of Love, and of a Sound Mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7, my emphasis added)

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The Unforgivable Sin?

Posted: August 19, 2014 by liftyourvoice1 in Depression, Forgiveness, Suicide

Recently, two similar events have been brought to the forefront of attention. One was the suicide of Braxton Caner, the son of well known Evangelical Preacher Ergun Caner, and the other was the even more recent suicide of comedian Robin Williams. Although one was more highly publicized than the other, neither one was more tragic than the other. Both Caner and Williams had reasons for taking their own lives, perhaps we will never know for sure why they both made that decision, but regardless of the decision their loss has been felt strongly in both cases. It is when we face times like this that many questions arise, especially amongst Christians. 127135a

Growing up as a pastor’s son, I have seen the tragedy that suicide is. I have personally known two fathers whose sons have taken their own lives. Both of them asked the same question, “Was my son forgiven for his action and is he in heaven, or is suicide unforgivable?” It is a tough question to answer, but I am positive that these two recent suicides have no doubt brought that question to the forefront of many a Christian’s mind. I would briefly like to address this question and look at what Scripture has to say.

First and foremost, I must acknowledge that yes, suicide is a sin. The Ten Commandments clearly state “you shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) Another possible translation from the original Hebrew word used in this passage is to kill. Hank Hanegraaff points out,

“Suicide is the murder of oneself. As such it is a direct violation of the sixth commandment. . . Indeed suicide is a direct attack on the sovereignty of the very One who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13).”(Hanegraaff, 399)

Suicide is a sin as killing another human being is a sin, just as stealing is a sin, or not obeying your parents is a sin.

As human beings, we feel the need to rank or categorize certain sins as more grievous than other sins. The truth is that no sin is greater than any other sin. Romans says, “The wages of sin is death.”(6:23)  Paul in Romans does not designate any one sin over the other as being more deserving of death; he simply says sin is deserving of death. Those who have studied the Bible know, however, in Romans 3 Paul states “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.” (3:23) This simply means that those who have accepted the gift that comes through Christ’s death and resurrection will spend eternity in Heaven and not experience death. This does not mean that we will not experience the death of our bodies, but rather we will not experience death in Hell.

Now that I have established that suicide is a sin like all other sins, equally deserving the punishment of death as other sins, and that if one has accepted the gift that Christ gives, then eternal punishment in Hell can be avoided, then let us address the issue at hand.

One of the fathers I knew who had a son commit suicide was told by “Christians” that his son automatically went to Hell because suicide was the unforgivable sin. First of all, what a horrible thing to say!!! Second of all, how would they know the eternal security of that young man!? I have already established that suicide, while egregious, is handled the same way by God as the sin of lying. If God handles them the same way, then how can suicide be the unpardonable sin?

I personally agree with and appreciate what Hanegraaf has to say about this:

“no single act is unforgivable. The unforgivable sin is a continuous, ongoing rejection of forgiveness. Those who refuse forgiveness through Christ will spend eternity separated from his love and grace. Conversely, those who sincerely desire forgiveness can be absolutely certain that God will never spurn them.”(398)

Who are we to say that someone who has committed suicide did not get right with God, ask for His forgiveness, and accept Christ fully right before they committed the act? If a person who has accepted Christ right before committing suicide is sent to Hell, then so is the person whose tells a lie right before they die. Ephesians 2:8 points out, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten son, that whoever should believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

This means, when we put our faith in God and what He has done through Jesus, then we receive Christ’s grace. That grace is pouUnknownred onto our whole lives. Christ’s forgiveness is of our sins past, present, and future. Think about that for a second: Jesus has already forgiven sins I have yet to commit!! Woah, talk about mind blown! (This is by the way, not a license to go out and sin as we please.) Here’s the point: if you have accepted Christ as your savior then God has already accepted you; you are one of His children. YOU BELONG TO HIM!!!
Nothing can change that; not even something bad that you did at the last moment of your life. Our relationships with Christ are not about keeping track of rights and wrongs, that  is grace through works. Our salvation is in grace through faith in what Christ has done for us. In that breath then, we need to be exercising our faith in Him by glorifying Him, worshiping Him, enjoying Him, and loving Him with our entire being. To say that if a Christian commits suicide and they are not forgiven is a slap in the very face of God.

Now, as to the debate of if a Christian would really commit suicide, I do not know if I should get into that. Hank Hanegraaf says that the thought of suicide is one that Christians dare not contemplate.(398) But, who am I to say that even a Christian could not lose sight of the value of their life? Many Christians battle with depression and anxiety. These diseases have been linked to many suicides. For this part of the debate, I will say that I cannot say for certain if a true Christian can commit suicide or not. Instead, what I will say is that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be spreading the wonderful gift that we have through Jesus… It is not our job to condemn people to Hell (I am thankful for that), rather, we need to spread the word to people that YOU MATTER AND GOD CARES!

 

Bibliography

Hank Hanegraaff, The Complete Bible Answer Book. Nashville Tennessee Thomas Nelson. 2008.

Discerning God’s Will

Posted: August 9, 2014 by liftyourvoice1 in Uncategorized
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In light of our prayerful journey in re-launching Lift Your Voice ministries, I thought it would be a good time to write on a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time, namely, God’s will.

Confession: I am a perfectionist and am afraid of making mistakes, especially making wrong decisions.

Because of this, I have lived in paralyzing anxiety over how to handle situations in my life. I would pray, but not hear an answer. I would read the Bible, but find no clarity. What if I made the wrong choice? What if I missed something God had for me? What if…? I could question my little life choices until the cows came home. Thankfully, my anxiety has improved along with my faith through, you guessed it, trials and struggles.

I discovered a key component to discerning God’s will in a previous relationship. I had been praying before the relationship, and praying during the relationship, but I didn’t know if it was “right.” By this time, I was in my early 20s and I didn’t believe in casual dating. I was dating to found a spouse, a life-time partner and companion. I was greatly conflicted, because my emotions and logic were tangled in a lovely mess. Part of me wanted to tell my brain to chill, while the other part of me wanted to tell my heart to quit interfering. People always say “listen to your heart,” as if the heart and emotions are trustworthy. God himself speaks on this in Genesis 8:21, stating that “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” I continued to live in doubt, doubting my choices and doubting what God had for me.

Somewhere along in the relationship, I talked to my parents over my dilemma. My father wisely said to give it to God by praying “Lord, if this is your will, bless this relationship. If not, take it away. I give it to you.” I was confused, because I thought I had been praying that. I realized my mouth had said the words, but my heart and my soul had not backed those words. When I finally became desperate and no longer cared if I lost the relationship, I prayed, “God, I want your will. Please bless this or take it away. I don’t need him God, I need you.” True to God’s promise that He answers prayer, the relationship ended within the next few days. It hurt, I cried, but I had never been more at peace or more sure that I had made the right decision.

Ok, Larkin, you’re saying, that’s all nice and your love life is fascinating, but what does this have to do with finding God’s will, and why are you sharing this now?

Excellent question!

After that relationship ended, my new life motto and prayer was “Bless it or take it away.” That simple. And it was liberating. I learned in my single months that God is not an eight ball you shake for answers nor a genie who gives you whatever you want, but a loving Friend and Father who gives you what you need. I learned that God wanted very little from me, that all He desired was a close relationship with me and that I love others as He loves. Love God, love others. Seek to please Him. It wasn’t a matter of a checklist, or simple yes and no’s. It was a daily walk with God. It was freedom to choose within His will, too. As long as I was in prayer and seeking His face with my hands not grasping onto anything, claiming things as my own, God would not steer me wrong. Things and people could pass in and out of my life without me fearing the outcome, because I was not in control, and that is a wonderful place to be.

In light of Lift Your Voice ministries, my prayer is the same: “Lord, bless this ministry by providing the things you know we need and bringing people into our lives that will help us and encourage us along the way. This ministry is yours. If this ministry is not your will, withhold your blessing, and take it away. Though we feel this is right, we want what you know is right. We trust you, Lord. Amen.”

 

May you live in peace as you seek God through a relationship with Him and allow him to “bless or take away” things in your life.

 

God’s peace be with you,

Larkin