Depression: Strictly Chemical, or can there be Spiritual Causes?

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Depression and mental illness have become hot topics in the public eye in the past decade, and for good reason. Chaos and heartless acts are being televised everywhere, traumatic and high stress events occur in peoples’ lives, and it becomes so easy to stay stuck in an abysmal state of mind. For some people, depression is a chemical imbalance that can be treated with prescription drugs. I believe it goes deeper than that for many people nowadays though. Depression for some people comes from a place of spiritual turmoil. It is something I know from personal experience because I’ve been fighting with depression on and off for over a decade. It starts to eat away at you, pessimism is the easiest form of logic to use, hopelessness starts to flood into you, and just a general lack of self worth creates a house for itself in your heart and mind. These were constants in my life since my 8th grade year when one of my biggest life influences, my grandpa, passed away. When that happened, my fight or flight instincts kicked into gear about how do I react to this situation. The choices my heart and mind gave me were: cry out to God for comfort and just to understand why this happened, or run away in the anger that had welled up within the confusion and pain because of unresolved time with my grandfather.

 

I ran away from God that day because I was hurt, I didn’t know how to talk about what had happened, and I was scared to show a hole in my armor at school because it felt like the people at school fed on my failure and pain. I now know looking at the past that probably wasn’t true, but I lost that passion to learn for a bit because I didn’t want to be attacked from the inside and out. The experiences I’ve had may not have been pleasant, but we’ve got an example of someone in Scripture who has gone through much worse, and came out on top because of his faith in God. That man’s name is Job. I believe that if we take the time to understand him we can learn to sympathize or empathize with people who have gone through, or are going through spiritual depression.

 

Job 2:9 (NASB). “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Personally, this verse is the best example of a variant of the fight or flight question that ran through my mind. Job was given the option to hold fast to his integrity, which stems from his relationship with the Heavenly Father. He was also given the option to curse God and die. Given everything that had happened to him by this point, it would be extremely easy for anyone to cry out in anger against God. Job by this point had lost all his monetary wealth, his cattle were all decimated, his children all recently died, and he had just begun to lose his health. Even through all of that, he stayed faithful to YHWH. Job 2:10 (NASB): “But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

The response he gives has been stuck inside my head ever since I have read these verses. “…Shall we indeed accept good from God and not adversity…” That is such a healthy perspective on life, and one we must learn for ourselves. These words are ones I believe we must learn to use with one another in love and gentleness because it is easier to become angry with God, instead of realize we can use the rough patches of our lives as catalysts for something better. Whether that is to draw closer to God, be empathetic with another’s life stories, or to share our stories letting others know they aren’t the only ones struggling in this life.

-Andrew Cheatwood

 

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My Life Purpose

Luke 4-5

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May 15, 2017

Have you been on youtube lately? If you have I’m sure you may have heard this on one of the ads before your video. “Do you know your life purpose? Do you know your destiny?” (Yes, Tai Lopez has made it into my Fuel Devotion.) But regardless of who asked these questions, they are good questions to ask and to think about.

Jesus knew his life purpose, we see this in Luke 4:43 “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” Jesus was sent so he could preach the message about the coming Kingdom of God. We know today that he did that very well considering how big Christianity has become. I believe this has something to do with the fact he called other people to join him in preaching this message.

We can see Peter, James, and John joining Jesus after he tells them they will be fishing for men in Luke 5:10-11. “. .they left everything and followed him.” Peter, James, and John thought they were going to be fishers of fish their whole life. But plans changed when Jesus called them to be fishers of men.

For the entirety of my senior year of high school, I wanted to become a full-time firefighter. I was already a volunteer at my local Fire District and had already taken Firefighter 1 and 2, plus EMT-B training. It was a done deal, I was set on making it a career. Well, all I can say is be careful what you wish for because I am becoming a full-time firefighter. Someone once told me that “To be a Pastor is to be the ultimate firefighter.”. Here I am freshly graduated from ABC about to do a pastoral internship. I guess I became a firefighter after all, huh?

Just like Peter, James and John were fishermen, they kept their job title but the job was different. They thought they knew their life’s purpose and destiny but God, through Jesus, had directed them to the ministry of preaching the kingdom of God. Have you thought about your life’s purpose lately?

-Jesse Allen

Feeling Unqualified?

Amos 7-9

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Saturday, April 15

“I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.  But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ (Amos 7:14-15)

 

God specializes in using ordinary people. Amos was the first prophet after the kingdom of Israel was divided by Jeroboam, preceding even Isaiah and Hosea.

Amos was just a shepherd (and a tree-tender).  He was hardly qualified to speak on behalf of the God of the universe.  But God had a job for him.  I think sometimes God calls those who seem ‘unqualified’ to do the most amazing work for him for three reasons.

  • They will give all the credit to Him.
  • They won’t question Him, assuming they know a better way.
  • They speak the language of the people and won’t talk over their heads.

Amaziah was the priest who should have been speaking God’s words.  He was the one “qualified” to be God’s prophet.  But when Amos goes to him, here’s what happens:

Amaziah says,

  ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
    and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’

Amos replies,

This is what the Lord says:

“Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
    and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
    and you yourself will die in a pagan country.
And Israel will surely go into exile,
    away from their native land.”

 

Did you get that?  The priest-boss says “Hey, knock it off. Quit saying bad stuff is going to happen” (Isn’t that a pretty common thing in the prophets?  People telling them to stop saying bad stuff was going to happen).  And Amos is like, “God says you’re all gonna die.  Mic drop.”

 

(Don’t think I don’t know that I’m too old and un-cool to use that phrase. But it fit, right?)

 

So whether you think you are qualified or not, keep your ears open for God’s call and your eyes open for His opportunity to speak truth and serve.

 

He’s got something for you!

 

-Susan Landry

 

The Intercession of a Friend

Job 39 – 42

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Friday, December 23

In today’s reading we have the conclusion of God’s rebuttal to Job.  He enumerates the detail of creation, throwing multiple examples at Job about its forethought, workings, and power.  Then, the mic is dropped.


“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.  “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;  I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:3b-6

 

God gives Job a sobering reminder of who God is.  Through this God does not simply restore Job, but he also uses him to intercede for his friends.  When our prayer lives are focused on others, especially those who have wronged us, we are drawing closer to God.  We love like Him.  We forgive like Him.  We are faithful like Him.  Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had to offer their own sacrifice, they had to pray for themselves, they had to change their ways, they had to make their own decision, but the devotion of a faithful friend saved them from their deserved punishment.

 

You too, have a friend who is interceding for you (Rom 8:34).  Jesus Christ is pleading your case before God.  You deserve not only death, but destruction, but God has listened to our Savior’s appeal.  You still have great responsibility, but he is making it easier (Matt 11:30).

My challenge for you is to find your own three friends (like Job) to pray for.  When we pray for our friends (and our enemies), acting like Job and Jesus, how much lighter can it make their burden?  What consequence might we save them from?  What healing or saving opportunity will God present them? (James 5:14-16).  Conversely, if we do not, what are we condemning them to?

-Aaron Winner

(photo credit: https://dailybiblememe.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/job-422/)

Write a Check

Job 35-38

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Thursday, December 22

Growing up and being the youngest of four, I went with my mom a lot of places.  One of the places I most accompanied her was the grocery store.  Candy was a rarity in my family (except for holidays), so when I reached the checkout and saw the limitless amounts awaiting there, I would start asking if I could have some.  On occasion, I would get my wish granted.  On other occasions, my mom would say, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have the money for that.” I would quickly appeal by telling my mother, “You can just write a check, then.” “It doesn’t work like that,” she would respond.

 

My logic: I want candy: Mom has checks: I get candy.


Reality: I want candy; Mom has checks: money in bank account: I get candy

 

For 37 Chapters, Job has been trying to make sense of what is happening.  He has been to hell and back, but has remained faithful.  He sees his situation, and he sees God, and he wants God to “write a check”.

 

His logic: God is love:  He has the power to take this away:  I will not suffer

 

Reality: God is love: He has the power to take this away: Every act of a holy and loving God is to bring me into His kingdom: I will not suffer (Rom 8:28)

 

God’s plan is eternal.  It is wrought in creation and sanctified with the blood of Jesus Christ.  It is fashioned from His desire that all men should be saved, and none should perish (2 Pet 3:9). A glimpse into the depths of God’s plan begins in His rebuttal to Job:

 

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone (WOW – Eph 2:20; Psa 118:22) while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” – Job 38:4-7

Suffering, pain, and death are the direct and indirect results of sin, not part of God’s design.  Does God save us from suffering?  Yes, eternally and sometimes temporarily, but we should never forget he offers comfort, peace, hope, love, and joy in the midst of every circumstance. Every action God takes is not to save a fleeting life, but to give an eternal one.  While there is nothing wrong with asking God to “write a check”, keep close to your heart the plan which he has made and paid.

-Aaron Winner

If a Tree Falls in the Woods…

Job 31-34

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Wednesday, December 21

A profound and familiar philosophical question that has repeated through many ages says, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  While this is a simple “yes” or “no” question you would probably get ten different explanations if you asked ten different people.  The question really is not precise enough to be answered on its own.

 

I have found the following question, heard in many theological circles, to be similar: “Does God speak today?”  Again, a question like this would be met with a variety of logic and debate because depends on interpretation of the question.

 

I feel both questions can be clarified by defining a single word. What do you mean by “sound” or “speaking”?

 

While there in a nuance between the two, I define both as an active force that travels through space or time that can/will eventually meet a listener.  God is not AN active force, but THE ever-present active force working in our lives.  While He has chosen to speak audibly to some, He has also spoken through vision, through prophets, and the ever-reverberating and active forces, His word and nature. (Heb 4:12; Psalm 19:1-6).

 

In our reading today, Elihu gives Job many examples of how God speaks not only audibly but inaudibly, through circumstance, His word, and through our brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

“But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say. I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue; My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know.  The Spirit of God has made me;   the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” – Job 33:1-4

 

“For God does speak—now one way, now another— though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds,he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.”  – Job 33:14-18

 

We may grow “deaf” because we have rejected Him, we may tune out certain frequencies because we have parts of our lives we are not ready to turn over to Him, but it does not mean He does not speak; it means, like Job, we have not listened.  There is always an audience for Him in moving and active creation. (Joshua 24:27).

God’s target audience is not the rocks; it is us.  He is constantly speaking in His word, through his pastors, in the sunrise, through his children, and yes, audibly.  Slow down.  Stop even.  Make time.  Ponder.  Pray.  Seek.  Perceive His wisdom, warnings, and wonders.  Today, make time to listen.

-Aaron Winner

Enduring Faithfulness

Job 27-30

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Tuesday, December 20

Yesterday, we tackled Bildad’s question to Job about the righteousness of man before a Holy God.   With a new frame of mind, we can answer and confidently place these words of Job in our heart:

“I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it;  my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” – Job 27:6

Our conscience, our friends, and our family are not our judge, only the Lord God Almighty.  If he has made us new through repentance, then that we are indeed.  Do we continue in sin? NO! (Rom 6:1).  Do we walk around saying, “You are not my judge!” NO! (Heb 10:24) We become part of the church, pray, study, do good works, give cheerfully, share His good news, not to earn merit badges for the Kingdom of God but as loving and faithful acts of a pardoned people.  No matter our past or present circumstance we must not conceal what God is/can do in us.  Today, you can move forward declare and renew your innocence through Him.

“I will teach you about the power of God;   the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal” – Job 27:11

Along the same vein, another reflection for today comes from the second half of today’s reading (Job 29 – 30).  Job essentially is contemplating the “good ole days”, before his fortunes turned south.  The power, the respect, the friends, and the wealth he once enjoyed all are gone.  While our fall might not equal Job’s, far too often when things take a turn for the worse, we quickly forget about the faithfulness of God.  We become as the children of Israel, longing to return to slavery so our belly can be momentarily filled. (Ex 14:20) We cry out, “God, why have you taken this from me?” yet we forget who gave it to us in the first place.

Your present life may not include the finite features of your past.  Death, debt, despair, and destruction may have become more commonplace; however, there is one infinite feature that is constant: the love and faithfulness of an unchanging God.  Look upon the past not to remind you of the “good ole days,” but of his enduring faithfulness; use the lamp unto your feet to know that your future is secure, no matter what life’s storms may bring.

-Aaron Winner