depression

Roll Up the Sky

It’s one of those days when I am hungering for something More. I’m done here.

The causes don’t matter except that they are more and more symptoms of this broken world. My heart aches for the battle to end, for the sky to roll up, for the stars to fall, for the Throne to stand before me, to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

And even as my heart aches for it, it fears.

I have not done well. (more…)

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Brace for the Storm

So… apparently the sky is going to fall.

Sunday, a guest told me, “God used you to speak to me today.” It was a very basic Law-Gospel sermon. This is why we praise God: Because we know who we are. We are sinners. We know what Jesus did for sinners like us: Die. When we put those two together, we have to praise.

Apparently that deeply touched this guest.

Sunday a prospect told me, “God has used you to make me a more mature Christian.”

Today my church president told me, “We called the right man. Pastor, I am so glad you’re here.”

This is… this is so much encouragement that I want to hear. This touches my heart so, so much.

And it makes me nervous as hell. (more…)

Hurt With

God promises.

He promises to wipe every tear from our eyes. Every sorrow gone. Ever weeping moment blotted away and replaced with joy.

And today… it is not enough.

I do not want him to wipe away the tears from my eyes. I long for him to wipe the tears from my heart.

I’ve known this day was coming for a while. Moving shakes things up. Picking up a different ministry means a new equilibrium must be found. Finding new joys and sorrows does not cure depression, though.

My depression is not constant, and for this I am thankful. It comes in waves, in moments and days and weeks at times which sometimes I can predict and sometimes catches me unawares. I have known, though. Oh, I have known that in this new place, depression would find me.

Today it has found me. (more…)

Connecting through Sadness

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Is it ok for Christians to be sad?”

The teens looked at each other and me, not sure how to answer the question. I sat somewhat in front of them, though we were really in a circle. We’d just finished watching Inside Out, and it was time to show them that it wasn’t just movie night.

And I took them to Psalm 13:

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,

for he has been good to me.

(more…)

The Changing Face of Peopling

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I loath being with people.

Please understand, I love my congregation. And I revel in leading worship. I savor sharing Jesus. And when I’m in small groups, I’d like to think I shine.

But people? So not my thing. Put me in a large group, and I wilt. Throw me into a party, and I waste away. I’m not made for large groups. I don’t people well.

All this means is that I’m an introvert. (more…)

Your Heart Lies

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Today someone I love tried to kill herself.

She’s safe now. She’s been chaptered and is getting the help she needs. I sat with her at the hospital for hours, reminding her of what she had forgotten: No matter what her heart says, she is not alone, and she is so very, very loved.

You.

I don’t know who you are. But I know that the storm comes, and it rips away any warmth you’ve gathered to yourself. I know how it tears away any pictures you have of yourself as lovable or worthy of love. The winds claw at your skin and your eyes and it leaves you raw.

I know that storm, too. I know it so very, very well.

And I know what your heart calls out in the storm. I screams that you are alone. That you are abandoned. That you are worthless. That you should feel only shame, because that is all that is in you. I know how the razor beckons.

Dear one: Your heart lies.

Do not believe it. Fight. Oh, fight.

But you are so weak!

I know. Of course you are. You are like me. The storm is so much bigger than we are, and we cannot ignore our own hearts.

But I know someone greater than your heart. He’s greater than mine, too.

This is what you need to hear when the storm destroys you. This is what you need to hear when your heart lies.

It is true that you have done things that should bring shame. It is true that you are not as good as you like to show yourself to be. It is true that you aren’t as lovable as you like pretending.

But it is true that you are loved far, far more than you could ever imagine.

Here is Jesus, who knows you in your darkness. He knows you in your shame. He knows what you want to do to yourself.

And he loves you.

Oh, beloved, you are not alone. He stands beside you on the cliff. He wraps his arms around you. He holds you close. And then he is suddenly before you, taking the full brunt of that evil wind. He cries out for you. He loves you so much he suffers for you. He knows what it is to weep. He knows what it is to spend sleepless nights, knowing that tomorrow the sun would not rise for him. He knows!

And he is with you. He has not left your side.

Your heart says you are alone. It lies. Jesus is beside you.

Your heart says you are abandoned. It lies. Jesus has not forsaken you.

Your hearts says you are not loved. It lies. Jesus loves you so much he dies for you.

If you have come to that dark place where you might make the choices for life to end…. do not believe your heart. Do not do it. Your heart lies.

Your Jesus knew you. He left heaven for you, to become your brother. He lived for you, knowing pain and temptation. And he died for you.

But, beloved, he lives for you again. Death was not the end of his story. He lives, and he will never die again. He lives for you, standing before the Throne of his Father, speaking on your behalf. He’s going before his Father – for you! And because he lives – you also will live. Your story does not end in storm. Your story ends with the One who has loved you so much.

Your heart lies.

Hear the Truth: You are loved, even in your sin, even in your shame.

You are loved.

To Love in Pain

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I was supposed to write a different post tonight, about what the most challenging aspect of my ministry is. I was planning on a nice rundown of the challenges I face and rating them. But then… things happened.

I love so many hurting people.

I’m calling the police again. And it hurts. It hurts so much. This time I’m not mad at me – it’s a very different situation. I’m hurting for the person involved, though. This is a person I love.

Sunday a man tried to come in to worship after we’d started. He never entered the sanctuary. I found out after that his ex-girlfriend, one of my members, saw him and… well, it wasn’t a good look. She told me after that he wasn’t allowed to come into church. I answered that, um, no. We’re not going to bar anyone from coming in unless they cause trouble here. And this is a person I love.

A prospect came to church on Sunday! And a family member of the prospect told me he couldn’t come to church if she was there, because her very presence distracted him so much. And I love both the prospect and her family member.

Today a mother wept for her children to come to church, to see Jesus. Today an unrelated man cried for his children. “Don’t harden your hearts to God!” he wept. And these broken people… I love them, too.

And I hurt so much with them. So much. These are my sheep, the sheep my Shepherd has entrusted to me. (more…)

Nothing Left to Give

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What was that Lassie? My ability to care fell down a well? Huh. Well, screw it all, then.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again, and I just don’t care. My euphemism is “I’m feeling down.” And it’s true. At first I thought it was just overwork and exhaustion. Five thirteen-hour days in a row will do that to you. But then I slept. And I was no longer tired.

Still, I did not care.

It’s not as bad as it was a few years back when I finally decided to go and get checked out for depression. I was able to get out of bed, though it still seems like getting out of bed was the worst thing I could possibly do in most situations. I was still capable of dealing with most people, though I had no desire to. I’ve faced darker tunnels and longer days.

Doesn’t mean these days are great.

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It’s not funny. It’s true.

Last Thursday I went to a regular Thursday appointment to see a certain family. I’m there nearly every week for a variety of reasons that don’t really matter for this post, other than to say they’re all involving ministry and sharing Jesus.

This particular family also knows about my struggles with depression. I’ve shared with them, because many in their family have the same struggle.

One particular woman in the family asked how I was doing on Thursday, and I shared honestly: Not great. “I’ve been having some down days lately. Not terrible, but it’s not been good.” I shrugged. I went about my business with the family.

Friday I got a text from that woman: “Hi Pastor, how are you doing today? Is there anything I can do for you?”

My heart broke. I read the text again. And again. I was not alone. This woman reached out to support me, just to see how I was doing.

She loved her pastor.

The body of Christ reached out to one who was hurting. To me.

Maybe your pastor is well-loved. Maybe he can experience that love. Maybe, though he is a shepherd who faces many hardships, is reminded of his congregation’s support. I don’t feel that support here. Please notice how I phrased that: I don’t feel that support. Perhaps it’s there and I’m blind to it. Perhaps my people love me and don’t have opportunity or knowledge in how to show it.

But in a week of darkness, this woman reached out.

God knows what I need, and he sent someone to give it.

(Please note: My Bride is awesome and has been as long as I have known her. She supports me, too. She has all this week. I do not discount that support at all! However, it’s a touch different receiving support form an unexpected quarter.)

When that woman came to church tonight, I thanked her personally. I wanted her to know how much that simple little text meant to me.

God knows what he’s doing. This week, I encountered this webcomic:

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Very seriously, visit http://adam4d.com/ for some really, really great webcomics.

Again, exactly what I needed.

I am struggling with caring about the flock given to me. The last several posts show how I have been wavering so much on this. Part of that struggle is with the loveliness of the congregation. Frankly, they can be a hard group to love. That shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t.

It does.

Though I long to be like my Shepherd, I am not Jesus. I want to show the grace he has shown me. Oh, it is so hard. In many ways, I simply feel empty.

And another element reared its head this week: Depression. Woo!

And now I’m dried up. Like pottery thrown on the floor, I’m just a shard of the refuse.

Today I got to lead my congregation into grace. And I loved preaching to them. Bible study was such a joy. I played volleyball with some of my congregation. I came back energized. I led a Sunday evening worship service and drove several teens back to their homes. I smiled most of the way.

And then I sit down… empty.

When I think of the individuals of the congregation, this is where I want to be. I think of the man who longs to see his Savior and reminds me so often of Jesus’s love. I think of another man who faithfully cleans the church every week. I think of the woman who struggles to care for her family and still types up large-print bulletins for us. I think of the teen who’s excited to teach Sunday school. These are the people I have been called to shepherd. I know them by name, and I ache, I ache to shepherd them.

And then I think of them as a group… and my heart turns off. I just don’t care anymore.

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I tried to find a picture of “I just don’t care anymore,” but every image included swear words. I’ll let you imagine them here.

What is this? Some symptom of being an introvert? Some element of depression or exhaustion or burnout?

I know this coming week, I’m spending more time at home and not planning on working all those hours. We’ll see if I’m able to do so. I suspect less hours will help me approach people with a heart full of God’s love and not empty. I suspect some rest will also combat my depression.

I also know I’m thankful for that little text. I’m thankful for Jesus using that woman to show love.

Can I encourage you to do something?

Tell your pastor. Call him up. Send him an email or a text. Write him a note. In fact, I encourage you to do something written rather than oral, so he can look back at it.

Tell him you care for him. Tell him you are thankful he brings you the Word. Ask how you can support him – not even the church, but him, as he goes out to shepherd the flock that Christ has placed under him. He may not need that encouragement at that moment. He may not need any help you are equipped to provide.

But simply knowing that one of the sheep cares about the health of the shepherd means so, so much on a dark day.

Tell him.

And even if he never says thank you, let me say it for him:

Thank you.

 

Sing the Impossible

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Jesus pointed. “You need to be better than them.”

And the people looked. Better than them? No way. Impossible.

But Jesus didn’t stutter. “Unless you’re better than them, there’s no way you can enter the kingdom of heaven. Unless your righteousness surpasses theirs, you have not a chance.”

No way. Impossible. Who could be better than a Pharisee? They always helped the poor. They were always memorizing the Bible. They were kind people!

And it’s still true today. Unless our righteousness surpasses theirs… we don’t stand a chance. (more…)

No Mourning Cry

Though it is not dead, I mourn it.

Tonight three relatively minor things struck all at once, and I am bitter. Call me Mara.

A member has accused me of theft, hiding behind “loving concern.” Through the last two years or so I have received occasional cards addressed to me and my family that had cash in them – not a large amount, but enough to take the family out to ice cream. Now a member is telling the council president that I’m stealing this money from the church. The president rolls his eyes, but it is a dissident voice – and though the person has not been named, I strongly suspect that it’s a person who has wanted me out for a long time. If it’s who I think it is, they’ve been accusing me of trying to kill the congregation for years. Well, though I have not, if he screams loud enough, he may see the closing of the congregation come to pass. And I am bitter that someone would not trust me, that someone would think that a gift intended for my family must go to the congregation, because if it is mine it must be theirs.

Tonight as I exited the church sanctuary (passing through on an errand), the automatic door closer fell to the floor. It will take some elbow grease to repair the door, but nothing major. But it reminds me of all the many things that show this building’s age: the radiators, the cracked plaster, the tiled hallways that can never be scrubbed clean through so many years of wear… And here’s one more thing. And I know that someone will say, as they always do when something falls apart here, “Well, if [insert person here] would just use it right, we wouldn’t have this problem!” And I am bitter that there are such accusations.

Tonight as I walked the building to make sure the doors were locked and lights were off, I discovered that at one end of the building, every single light is burned out. These are lights by a stairwell frequented by the teens in our teen center as well as our evening service. And even these bulbs bring bitterness. When I talk about how they need to be replaced, the answer I will receive is, “Well, it’s not that important.” Why? Because only Sunday morning matters; not the teens they don’t see during the week, and certainly not the evening service. Only Sunday morning matters, obviously, and there’s enough natural light then that we don’t need to replace the bulbs. And that callous attitude toward those God has called… oh, it makes me bitter.

And I look at the future of this congregation I have been called to serve. What do I see? (more…)