Monday, August 24, 2015

I'm Depressed: Suicide (Part 2 of 2)

Last Monday I reposted a piece I wrote a little over a year ago about depression. It includes a testimony of my personal brief glimpse into depression. My experience gave me a new perspective of the hopelessness felt by someone who chronically battles depression.

This week I want to delve even further by addressing the topic of suicide. I have not personally had a suicidal thought. I have, however, ministered to a family that faced this tragedy. The thoughts I will share today seemed to be helpful to them, so I thought they may be helpful to others who have battled with depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts or for those who have lost a loved one due to suicide.

I would like to address three truths about suicide in this post:
1.     Suicide is Unusual

By that, I mean that it is not God's desire. God is the giver of life. He created all life and then he redeemed humanity by sending Jesus to die in our place. He did this to pay for our sins so that we could live forever with Him if we accept His gift. Just to prove that He has power over sin and death, God raised Jesus from the dead (again, giving life).

Here’s what God had to say about the value He places on life:

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

John 10:10 says: “"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

God is the giver of life and so, yes, suicide is a sin because it is contrary to the nature and purposes of God. However,

2.     Suicide is NOT Unforgiveable

Some people say that because you are unable to confess the sin of suicide, then you cannot be forgiven and therefore will go to hell. Here is the truth: Our salvation is not dependent on any action we initiate. It is God’s work one hundred percent. When we accept God’s salvation as offered through Christ, it covers our sins: past, present and future. Though we need to confess our sins to God, it is not required to maintain our salvation. It is an act that is designed for us to learn from. It is an act to conform us to God’s will. God already knows about our sins before we do (He went to Adam and Eve in the garden while they were hiding out. They though maybe He wouldn’t notice).

Read about the assurance you can have:

Romans 8:37-39: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (emphasis mine)

We are created beings, therefore, we do not have power to reverse what God has done. Salvation is His work alone. He loves us. This doesn't give us license to sin, but it gives us assurance when we fail.

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

3.    Suicide is Unexplainable

Some have an extremely hard time understanding what happens when someone commits suicide. People who do not struggle with depression cannot understand why people become so despairing. Only that person and God know what the thought process is that leads to this point. We run a danger of being very wrong and hurting others when we try to rationalize and explain the thought processes of the suicide victim.

I believe that the brief glimpse of depression that I mentioned in last week's post was God-given. I believe He allowed it so that I would never again diminish someone who battles constantly with depression.  There was no logical explanation for what was happening. It just did. Fortunately for me, I was able to discern the connection with my diet and correct the imbalance, but for others it is not that easy. However, if you have never had a struggle like this, depression makes no sense and you might be tempted to think the person just needs to get over it or have more faith in God. Please be sensitive to know that it’s not that easy. Someone struggling does need help but sometimes they need a family member or friend to lead them where they need to go.

God understands the person who struggles with depression. He knows their hurt. He hurts with those who suffer:

Romans 8:26-27: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (emphasis mine)

I have recently adopted a phrase that speaks to the truth of mankind’s condition: We are ALL broken peopleThe difference is in how our brokenness is manifested.  The good news is that Jesus is the one who puts the broken pieces back together. If you accept His gift of salvation, then you will be perfected when you arrive in heaven. Will you let Him put you back together so you can have confidence in your eternal destination?
Revelation 21:3-4: “…and He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

Please feel free to message me if you need to talk further about this. I am not a counselor, but I can offer spiritual wisdom or help you find the help you need.

For God's Glory,

Chris S. Sweet

Monday, August 17, 2015

I'm Depressed: Depression (Re-post as part 1 of 2)

I posted this blog almost exactly a year ago. It apparently struck a personal note with many because it is among my most-read posts. I am re-posting because of its impact, but also because I have a sequel to it that discusses suicide. I hope you will read this one this week and watch for the sequel next Monday.

I embark on this post with great caution. Caution because I don't like bandwagons.  With this being the week that the news and comments about Robin Williams' suicide plastered everywhere it may appear that way. Caution because this is a sensitive subject to many. Caution because this is an uncomfortable subject for so many. And, caution because I am going to take a little risk in being transparent.

Honestly, I have not ever had a problem with depression. I have not understood what people are speaking of when they tell of their struggles. I have been flippant at times when I have heard others talk of their struggles, or I have offered cheap platitudes when people have shared with me personally.

That is until the past year. I have grown to understand a little more and been slower to assume or to attempt to resolve others' difficulty with this troubling condition.  As a disclaimer, I don't have anything figured out, nor have I experienced all that someone who struggles with depression has felt. However, I now have a little better feel for it.

About a year ago, I was having my quiet time with the Lord. I was being very contemplative, or so I thought, when all of a sudden I began to weep and could not control myself. This went on for at least a day. I could sense something was wrong, something was out of the ordinary. It scared me because I didn't understand it.

For ME, it was a fairly simple fix. I was able to make some dietary changes that corrected my troubles. However, I am grateful to have had the experience for the sake of others that I will encounter in my ministry. I can no longer respond,  whether in my own mind or out loud, the way I had previously. I now find that I am more attentive to people who share their struggles with depression. I was even recently able to listen more attentively to and pray with a church member who shared the struggles they were experiencing on a very severe level.

Does this mean I understand depression? No. Does this mean I have answers I can give to those who come to me? Not easy ones. Each person is different. Each one struggles differently with different thoughts and different symptoms. I would not even begin to risk to give advice. There is no cookie cutter approach.

However, I can give thoughtful encouragement to them on a personal level and encourage them to seek professional help without being condescending or simplistic. I can be armed with a list professional resources to guide someone who needs to know where to go. I can stop and immediately pray with them. I can call and check on them regularly. I can listen for any warning signs that may result in them being a danger to themselves or others.

What I cannot do is treat them differently or avoid them or toss scripture at them or tell them their faith should be stronger or shrug them off as if they "just need to get over it".I can tell you first hand: I know now that you can't "just get over it". Just knowing or speaking or reading scripture doesn't fix it. I can tell you, I know what the scriptures say about joy, faith, trials and anxieties, etc. I have repeated them over and over. When I had the episode I described above I could logically think of what was right, but I could not make the feelings of despair go away. I could not make sense of WHY I felt the way I did.

Often, what we don't understand is what scares us the most. I hope and pray that you will not allow your fear or disregard for the unknown effect the way you respond to those who are suffering with depression. I hope you don't have to experience what I have and certainly not what others have experienced far worse than my own. I do hope you will be slow to respond so you can pray and inquire from God as to the best response you can give. When part of the body is injured and hurting, the rest of the body feels it and is part of the process of seeking and receiving proper attention. May we do our part in helping our depressed brothers and sisters in their time of need that it may result in the furthering of the gospel to the glory of God!

1 Corinthians 12:20-26
20 But now there are many members, but one body21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22On the contraryit is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorableon these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the bodygiving more abundant honor to that member which lacked25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another26 And if one member suffersall the members suffer with it; if one member is honoredall the members rejoice with it. (NASB)
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Monday, August 10, 2015

Escaping Death

Wouldn't you like life to be easier than it is? I think most people do. That's why most TV commercials attempt to convince us that their product will make our life easier...better...more fun...more attractive.

How about an easy life and the ability to cheat death? After all, in 2014 alone Americans spent $3.8 Trillion on health care. Americans are living much longer because of all the medical advances as well. However, the truth is that the two certain things in life are still death and taxes. Taxes are the only category of the two that mankind can control.

As long as we are on this planet and in this flesh-wrapped body, there will be no easy life and death is certain. However, the Bible tells us that there is an offer of eternal life which will be spent in never-ending joy and without suffering or sorrow. The only unfortunate part of it is that we have to endure the hardships of this life before we can get to eternal life. However, the Bible says that this life will seem only momentary and the troubles will seem light once we reach eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17).

God is our hope for eternal life. He is the one who offers it, but He is not asking for you to pay for it. He paid for it and offers it as a gift. He paid for it with blood of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8, Romans 6:23).

For those who already believe, I want to encourage you a little. Often we struggle with living as we know we should and that sometimes leads to us doubting whether or not we are saved. Here are a couple of verses for you:
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. Selah. God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death. (Psalm 68:19-20)
 If you read the entirety of Psalm 68, you will find that it highlights many of the wonderful attributes and actions of God which demonstrate His greatness as well as the magnitude of His love toward His people.  The two above verses stand out particularly because they tell us three things about God's work in our lives:

1.  He daily bears our burden. God is our constant source of strength and confidence.

2.  He daily bears our burden. He carries all of it (Matthew 11:28-30).

3.  He daily bears our burden. Notice that it doesn't say burdens, but burden (singular).
     Our greatest burden is the guilt from our own sin. This is self-inflicted guilt. Yet God
     is faithful to bear it all for us on the cross of Christ.

Verse 20 reveals the result of God daily bearing our burden. It says that He is a God of deliverances and escapes from death. He delivers time and again because we keep failing. His grace is sufficient for all our failures. God's mercies are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:22-23) The reason His mercies are new every morning because we fail on a daily basis and because we fail, we do not have the good in us that it would take to undo the bad in us. However, when you accept Christ as your Savior and Lord, the Bible says that He credits His righteousness to your account (Romans 4:1-5). Isn't that great news?!

So what should be the end result for those who believe?

1.  Unending rejoicing. Gratitude should flow from with in you and overflow to those around you.

2.  Undying devotion. Strive to live for Christ at all times and share His offer of salvation
     with all. The Bible tells us how to do both.

3.  Unshakable confidence. Don't worry about your salvation. Once you accept His forgiveness,
     He secures you for eternity. Don't take it for granted, but don't worry. Repent and get back
     on track as soon as you realize you have done wrong (John 10:27-30).

How do you need to respond today? Do you still need to accept His gift of salvation? Don't wait. Accept Him and then find a Bible-believing church to connect to so you can grow in your knowledge of Him. Do you need to repent because you have walked away from living a life of gratitude for His salvation? The repent and walk in His light (1 John 1:5-10).

Whatever you need to do, please don't wait. Do it now. What's preventing you?

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet