“What It’s Like Explaining Depression Meds to Many Christians” by To Save a Life

img_2605Hello dear readers!

I am in the middle of working on some upcoming blog posts for this week,  but I saw a great post today that ties in beautifully to the past several posts regarding invisible illnesses. I’m including one of the graphics, but you’ll have to click the link to see the rest:

 

http://tosavealife.com/mental-health/depression/what-its-like-explaining-depression-meds-to-many-christians/

May the peace of God dwell with you today and always.

Depression: What it is and How to Fight Back

This is part 4 of the series “Invisible Illnesses.” To read the previous post, click here

depression post

The problem of depression and the Christian is complex. As with PTSD, we need to educate ourselves before rushing to errant judgement.

Depression can be split into two categories (although they frequently often overlap): there is depression caused by physical/chemical triggers and there is depression as a state of the mind. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction. Continue reading

My Greatest Fear

 

Fear.

At times irrational, at times justified, fear is a human response to circumstance.

The news reels have been buzzing since November 8th. The whole country (and possibly certain world leaders) seemed to be biting down their nails as we all waited with bated breath for the election results. Admittedly, an election is always an anxious affair. The choices of a leader—even small choices—create an indescribable ripple effect. Continue reading

A Voting Christian’s Prayer

photo-1475938476802-32a7e851dad1Our Father in Heaven,

You are King of Kings, Creator of the Universe, and Lord of my life. You raise up nations, and you take down nations. Our times are in Your hands.

Thank you, Father, for allowing us to dwell for many years in this country of prosperity and peace. We are grateful for your bountiful care.

Our country stands on the precipice of change once again as we prepare to elect a new leader. Continue reading

Be strong. Fear not. (Day 12 of the #Encourage Marathon)

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Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

~ Isaiah 35.3-4, ESV

Welcome to mile marker 12 of our #Encourage Marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is anxious. It might even be you!

If you read or copied down Hebrews 12.12-13 on Day 8, you may sense a bit of repetition here. We already talked about the need to get motivated. Today, let’s talk about battling anxiety.

Fear and anxiety are part of the human condition. As we grow in age and experience, certain fears increase while others vanish altogether. Adults  tend to worry excessively, because we have so many responsibilities.

Continue reading

Feeling overwhelmed?

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Somewhere, right now, there is a young mother standing in her house, the fingertips of both hands pressed into her head in frustration. The house gets cleaned, only to be dirty within a few minutes. She sits down to rest only to be interrupted by another of her children. The sink is clogged, the repairman is calling, the bills need paying and dinner needs preparing.

Somewhere, right now, is a man sitting in a hard chair, head in hands, paralyzed by anxiety and grief. The list of honey-do’s at home and the never-ending stress of work has driven him into shut-down mode. He still carries the weight of the dead from his time in Iraq, and there are days it all seems like too much to handle.

Somewhere, right now, somebody you know is feeling overwhelmed.

It might even be you.

The account of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus (and his subsequent sinking/rescue) resonates with people. Waves and storms evoke a sense of overwhelming odds. Waves are powerful, crushing things that rise high above us, giving us the sense that we are insignificant and about to be overpowered. We all have days when the weight of everything is too heavy—our minds can’t focus, our heart rate increases, and we just wish we could hit “undo.”

How do you keep right on going when the weight of everything threatens to drown you?

Here are four tips for the overwhelmed and anxious:

Tip#1: Stop whatever you’re doing… and pray

“But I can’t stop! I have to keep going! I can’t just pause from what I’m doing! Catastrophe will ensue!”

You can stop, even if it’s just for a moment—take 10-30 seconds to pause and pray.

You don’t have to get on your knees or close your eyes. Just make an immediate appeal to God for help. Fix your mind’s eye on Him.

Here’s an example: “Lord, I feel overwhelmed. I know you are always near and said you’d be with me. You see what’s happening and you know how I feel. Have mercy on me and help me to keep going. I can do what needs to be done, but only with your help. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” (This only takes about 15-20 seconds!)

Still feeling overwhelmed? Keep pausing and praying until the day is over. Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you. That phrase is from His Word (Psalm 55:22) and it’s a promise! It doesn’t say He might sustain you, it says He will!

 

Tip #2: Reduce your intake of stimulants and sugars.

If you are having regular feelings of physical panic, it’s time to reevaluate your caffeine intake. Coffee is not inherently bad for you, but in many people (myself included) it causes heart palpitations and panic attacks. This can also include chocolate or black tea. Reduce or remove it. Some have found green tea to be a good substitute stimulant without the negative side affects of panic attacks, etcetera. If you use essential oils, put a drop of peppermint in your hand, rub both hands together, then bring them to your nose and breathe deeply. Peppermint gives clarity and stimulation. To relax, use lavender oil.

Sometimes, it’s just hard to focus. Reduce your intake of sugar and carbohydrates to lessen the 2 o’clock fog. A few simple dietary changes can make a big difference!

 

Tip #3: Make time for quiet.

We live in a loud world. Noise, distractions, and a constant flood of information are, in and of themselves, too much to process at times. Put down the phone, shut off the TV, turn off the music and do something quietly. Write down prayer requests, read a book, pray, or simply shut your eyes and process the events of the day. If you say, “I don’t have time,” you need to make time. Come up with 15 minutes in the morning, on your lunch break, or even before bed. It’s not impossible.

Here is another suggestion: When you get home from work, let the kids have a few minutes of play to themselves and allow yourself to decompress for as little as 10 minutes. Set a timer and tell the kids you’ll be out of your room when the timer goes off. Everyone needs to reset, refresh, and regroup. It’s good to train your kids to have “quiet time” as well. Admittedly, your kids may interrupt you with some catastrophe or other. Start with just a few minutes at a time and work your way up to 10 or 15 minutes. Over time and consistent practice, you will all fall into a healthy routine.

One last suggestion: make time to walk for a minimum of 20 minutes outside (weather permitting). There is something reviving about the fresh air and the solitude.

 

Tip #4: “Do the next thing.”

Writer and speaker Elisabeth Elliot emphasized this idea throughout her work. She derived this saying from an old Saxon poem:

Do it immediately; Do it with prayer;

Do it reliantly, casting all care;

Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand,

Who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,

Leave all resultings, DO THE NEXT THING.

This concept has helped me plow my way through some tough times. If your to-do list is a mile long and you feel like shutting down, ignore the list for a moment a focus on the next immediate task. Do the dishes need washing? Begin! Is your email inbox full? Reply to the first email. Take a few minutes to order your list and then start at the top. Instead of focusing on the mountain, fix your eyes on the first steps…

…And then the next foothold…

…and then the next handhold…

…then the next task, the next job, the next thing. Step, by step, by step.

Don’t concentrate on the list, concentrate on that first customer inquiry. Don’t think about all the demands, just change that diaper. You may only accomplish a few tasks, but you will have accomplished something in your day. With the Lord’s help, we can overcome our mountain of demands.


 

Are you feeling overwhelmed today? God is near and wants to help you. Leaning on Him is like resting against a great rock—peaceful, secure and steady.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;

My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;

My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.

The pangs of death surrounded me,

And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.

The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;

The snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.

He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.

Psalm‬ ‭18:2-6‬ , 16 NKJV‬‬

 

The Overlooked Truth About Depression and Faith.

depression post

Did I just hear that correctly?

Yes. I did.

It was the phrase, “Christians shouldn’t ever be depressed.”

Ouch.

I sat gloomily, feeling the weight of the statement and sinking deeper into the pit that was my depression.

I chewed on that statement for weeks, wondering if I wasn’t right with God. I debated in my own mind about whether my depression was sin, trying to decide if I had allowed my weakness to conquer me.

The problem of depression and the Christian is complex, and I address it in this post because I am confident there are many who have asked themselves the same question.

I have yet to find a verse in the Bible that reads, “Thou shalt not be depressed.” There is an abundance of verses that tell us to rejoice always and to count it joy when we are persecuted or fall into trial.

Then, there is the book of Psalms, the book of Lamentations, the book of Job, the book of Ecclesiastes, the verses about being grieved by various trials, the verses about weeping enduring for a night and joy coming in the morning, verses that tell us to be firm and endure, and verses about going to the Lord for refuge.

I pray that what I write here is helpful to anyone battling this problem.

Depression can be split into two categories (although they often overlap and work together): there is depression caused by physical/chemical triggers and there is depression as a state of the mind. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction.

1) The physical causes of depression.

Depression is categorized as a mental illness along with PTSD, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Mental processes are impalpable. Because we don’t see our mind working and processing (like a computer) there is a tendency to forget that a great deal of this intangible process comes from the tangible part of our body called “the brain” and is heavily influenced by our hormones. Our brain is a functioning organ like our heart, and as such is prone to malfunction. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are dysfunctions in the brain. These diseases afflict elderly Christians. Are they no longer right with God because their brain is malfunctioning?

Over four years ago, a very dear friend of mine introduced me to the Weston A Price Foundation. Dr. Price was a dentist in the 1920s that was curious as to why so many of his patients had dental deformities. Fortunately for us, the man asked solid questions and did considerable hands-on research. He found isolated societies from different places in the world—Switzerland, Alaska, Africa, the Outer Hebrides etc.—whose inhabitants did not eat modern foods (i.e. white sugar, white flour, canned goods). Instead, they ate the foods available to them. Organ meats, fermented foods, fresh raw milk from grass-fed cows, fresh seasonal vegetables, bugs (in occasional places), fish oil, fat and grains that were sprouted or fermented. They did not suffer from tuberculosis (the disease of the day), their babies were round and happy, they had broad faces and—in spite of having no dentists—they often had perfectly straight teeth and little to no dental decay. They possessed a high level of optimism and had generally cheerful dispositions.

As soon as roads were built that connected these societies to the modern world and the displacing foods were brought into those communities, the following generation of children were born with narrower facial structure and suffered dental deformities, tuberculosis and, yes, depression.

Without getting overly technical, my understanding is that a narrower facial structure can affect the formation of the brain, which in turn affects the hypothalamus and the lymphatic system impacting hormone production and immune system function. It isn’t just a dental issue or a physical issue—it’s a mental issue.

In effect, the way our parents ate when we were in the womb, affected our development in utero; the way we ate as babies and developing children affected our facial structure, which in turn impacted our brain development. In essence, the reason depression is so much higher today than 50 or 60 years ago can be traced to poor nutrition! Check out the comparative pictures in the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A Price.

If you are suffering from clinical depression, it goes beyond a “state of mind” or “attitude.” It is highly likely that you may be dealing with a chemical or hormonal imbalance.

Consider that for a moment.

If you were to be diagnosed with cancer, would that make you less of a Christian? Would God see you as a sinner because you suffer from a physical malady not brought on by conscious choice? Again, with Alzheimers and Dementia—are they less Christian than the elderly who still have full possession of their faculties?

What did Jesus have to say about that?

In John 9, Jesus and his disciples came upon a man who had been blind from birth. The blindness didn’t come because he was playing with matches and gunpowder. His parents didn’t beat him senseless or use illicit drugs that caused blindness. The man had been born with his blindness—a physical deformity.

Jesus’ disciples asked him the age-old question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

What did Jesus answer? 

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Have you ever stopped to consider that your physical battle with depression might be an opportunity for God to be glorified?

I have read it, heard it and felt it implied that people who are depressed just need to “get over it” or “snap out of it.” For the Christian suffering from depression, being told that we should “get over it” and be paragons of joy can be even more discouraging because it amplifies existing feelings of inadequacy and weakness.

What did Paul say about his weakness? He called it his “thorn in the flesh.”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12.7-10

Look at your depression as an opportunity for God to manifest His strength. You may not feel like you can face the day. Your present circumstance and the way you feel at this moment may be so overwhelming you can barely get out of bed each day.

Allow God to be your strength when you have none.

Allow God to give you joy when you feel none.

Allow God to lift you up when the burden feels too heavy.

Do not allow your physical struggle with depression to define you.

Allow God to transform you.

If you live your life each and every day, fighting to find something to give thanks for, actively seeking for the good that can be found, working to heal the physical problems of depression and handing over the uncontrollable and overwhelming emotions to God when they rise up, just think what a difference that can make to your approach to life. If someone discovers that you are doing all that while battling depression, just imagine what a faith-building impact that can have!

One person’s obedience + God’s power = Victory.

A caution: Depression is no joke. It takes more than simply your own strength of will to overcome. Because it is a physical issue, there are steps that must be taken to deal with it. I personally do not advocate SSRIs, but that is a decision that you should make for yourself after doing research and consulting with trustworthy health professionals. Depression can lead to suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse. Do not hesitate to seek help.

My fellow blogger, Sean Croxton at Underground Wellness did a whole series called The Depression Sessions in which he conducted interviews with a broad range of health professionals addressing the problems of SSRIs and suggesting natural approaches to depression. You can check it out here. He also has these podcasts that might be helpful:

Furthermore, some lifestyle changes may be in order. Less sugar in the diet, lower carbohydrate intake, more magnesium and an increase in Vitamin D (just to name a few) are small changes that have been shown to counter depression in a big way.

2) The “Woe-is-Me” mentality.

There is a character in the fiction of A.A. Milne (popularized by Disney) named Eeyore. Eeyore is a gloomy donkey who lives in the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh and friends. His voice always carries the “I’m down in the dumps” tone. On Eeyore’s Birthday, Pooh discovers that Eeyore is gloomier than usual, only to find out that it’s Eeyore’s birthday and nobody has remembered.

Can’t you see? Look at all the presents I have had.” He waved a foot from side to side. “Look at the birthday cake. Candles and pink sugar.”

Pooh looked–first to the right and then to the left.

“Presents?” said Pooh. “Birthday cake?” said Pooh. “Where?”

“Can’t you see them?”

“No,” said Pooh.

“Neither can I,” said Eeyore.

Pooh is moved with pity and rounds up his friends to get presents for Eeyore. It all turns out well… it is a children’s story after all. But the fact is, Eeyore is always gloomy. Things could be going great and he would still find something to mope about.

His outlook is pessimistic. Life holds little joy for him.

His gloominess is caused by the way he has his mind set.

Here is where I split the hairs.

There are definite physical and chemical causes to depression, but there is also an attitude of depression. What I mean by that is some people have trained themselves (often unwittingly) to have a depressed outlook on life. They set their mind on the negative and sad. It isn’t a difficult task considering all the suffering around us.

The clinically depressed often have greater trouble with this (this is where physical and attitude can run together) because they are already fighting the uncontrollable feelings brought on by the physical issues mentioned earlier. They have to fight harder than the average bear to set their mind firmly on good things.

This is the critical point: they must fight. Often, they need help. They have to seek counseling, naturopathy, homeopathy and/or medication in order to reach that point where they can mentally choose to stamp on those negative emotions and feelings.

For the past 20 years (maybe more), our society has slipped into this mindset: “I have this problem therefore I can’t help but be this way. It’s my parents’ fault, my hormones’ fault, and my job’s fault it’s got to be someone else’s fault. Because of all these problems, I can’t do things any differently. Just accept me the way I am because there is no way I can change.”

It’s time we stop thinking like that.

I’m not telling you simply to “get over it.” Believe me, that mindset does not help anybody. (It has certainly never done anything but make me feel worse!) What I am telling you is that you have to do something about it. Don’t wallow in it, look for a way out of it.

We’ve been watching the old A-Team show lately. Yes, it’s a hokey show, but nearly always good for a laugh. In pretty much every episode, they find themselves in some nearly impossible situation and they have to engineer their way out. B.A. (played by Mr. T) ends up doing some welding, soldering or hammering, turning old jalopies into armored vehicles and barns into booby traps and inevitably they wriggle out of their danger with their cleverly devised solution.

What most people see as junk and scrap, they see as potential tools for success.

Think of the depression mindset as your nearly impossible situation.

How can you engineer your way out? How can you look at this from a new angle?

1) For starters, who is on your side?

It’s not a trick question.

Ok, I’ll give you a hint: The One who created the brain and body of the human being.

That’s right! God.

How do you ask God to help you? By praying. Every time those feelings and thoughts rise up and threaten to immobilize you, ask God to help you overcome those feelings. Don’t let them have dominion over your mind.

2) What other tools do you have on hand?

The Sword of the Spirit aka The Word of God aka the Bible!

How often do you use that tool? If it’s just sitting in your toolbox collecting dust, it’s time to pull it out, dust it off and start using it. How are you supposed to get your mind off all the negative things in this life if you aren’t filling it with the positive?

Consider this passage in Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

Hebrews 4.12-16

The Word of God can help us train our minds and hearts to discern what is rational and irrational in our thoughts and feelings. I have had days where, for no apparent circumstantial reason, I feel depressed, heavy, gloomy, and moody. I can actually recognize the irrationality of my feelings and I attack it vigorously. Again, this came with help and counseling. I tell my spouse, “I’m not feeling right, I feel heavy, I need you to bear with me and help me through it.” I pray minute by minute about it. I fight it. I dig deeply into God’s Word… especially the Psalms. It takes time to recognize the gloom for what it is, but it can be done. I also make sure I watch my food intake closely on those days, try to do some exercise if there’s time and intensely guard what I say. I am not always successful… I am human after all… but it has been an illuminating experience. I didn’t get to this point without a lot of assistance. I used counseling, acupuncture, homeopathy, dietary changes, exercise and healthy activity. It was gradual, but highly effective for me.

3) Training.

Like anything in a Christian life, godly characteristics do not come naturally. They take training and practice. Trust takes training. Patience takes training. Joy comes with time and training.

When dark, pessimistic thoughts come on, do you stew and brood about them? What does the Bible advise?

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4.8-9

You have to practice seeing the negative for what it is and then finding the positive and resting there. If you see something bad, ask yourself, how would God see this?

Take for example the Supreme Court decision that has dismayed so many of us. Many of us feel some degree of dismay, righteous anger and fear. We fear coming persecution, imprisonment, job loss and other such things.

What is a positive angle to this? How can we keep from being gloomy about the state of the Union?

  • This World is not our permanent home. We long for a heavenly country. This incident is an excellent reminder that all that we see is temporal, not permanent. Thank you Lord for stirring my desire for heaven!
  • There is an opportunity to talk to people about the Word of God. I know that most people don’t want to hear what we have to say, but we should be speaking anyway. I have been called stupid on more than one occasion, but it’s been an opportunity to stand up for the Word of God and demonstrate that a Christian can argue their faith lovingly and respectfully.

4) What other helps are available?

Other Christians who have suffered from depression may have some invaluable insights on counselors or treatments that have helped them. Counselors (especially those with a Christian mindset) can be invaluable helpers. Do not brush aside counseling. So many people feel that they are too good for it. Don’t let your pride be your downfall. Get a counselor to help you train your mind and address the physical problems with depression if they exist.

Don’t forget the websites and podcasts that I mentioned above. They could be very helpful for you. I will be attending the Weston A Price Conference in Anaheim this November and if you are interested in making dietary changes to help with depression or other illnesses, this may be the stop for you! Sally Fallon, the president, does an excellent presentation every year on the work of Dr. Price and it is illuminating!

My very dear friends, do not allow someone’s misguided or uninformed statements plunge you into a deeper depression. The Lord knows our every weakness. Sometimes our depression is purely attitude, more often than not it’s physical, and even more often, it’s a combination of the two. If you are battling depression today, please know that there is hope and there are plenty of us who want to help!

If you have overcome depression in the past or know of someone who has, please share that story to inspire hope for those who are feeling hopeless.

Be still. Now.

If I could describe my life during college, racing from class to class, pulling all-nighters, working, performing, meeting up with friends, making it to worship and Bible classes, the picture below would be an excellent illustration—racing around like a roadrunner and loving every single minute:

roadrunner
Wiley Coyote and Roadrunner. Copyright Warner Bros.

The picture below more accurately illustrates what I have felt like (more times than I care to admit) since college—still running faster than the speed of the earth’s rotation and slightly rabid at times with a little humorous nuttiness:

hammy
Hammy the Squirrel Copyright DreamWorks Animation.

Most of the time, I feel like I’m racing to outrun a deadline or some other pressing danger. If I’m not running that way, I’m hopped up on adrenaline, getting slightly crazy to outrun the latest deadline or impending trouble. My hair might stick up strangely in a few spots…

My reaction when faced with trouble is either to be overwhelmed by it or spring into immediate action and reaction. This past week has been so crammed with surprises and major life changes that it honestly feels like a month has passed, rather than seven days.

Yesterday, while addressing the demands of the day and contemplating next steps for our immediate future, I got an email from my mother. She has been studying Nehemiah. I love the book of Nehemiah. There are abundant lessons to be learn and, Lord willing, I’ll be writing about them in the future.

She sent me a section of commentary that could not have come at a better time:

Nehemiah 2:1-3

1. He had the faith to wait. (Nehemiah 2:1-3)

Since the Jewish month of Nisan would be our mid-March to mid-April, it would indicate that four months have passed since Nehemiah received the bad news about the plight of Jerusalem. As every believer should, Nehemiah patiently waited on the Lord for directions; because it is “through faith and patience” that we inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12). “He that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16). True faith in God brings a calmness to the heart that keeps us from rushing about and trying to do in our own strength what only God can do. We must know not only how to weep and pray, but also how to wait and pray.

Three statements in Scripture have a calming effect on me whenever I get nervous and want to rush ahead of the Lord: “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13); “Sit still … until you know how the matter will turn out” (Ruth 3:18, NKJV); “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). When you wait on the Lord in prayer, you are not wasting your time; you are investing it. God is preparing both you and your circumstances so that His purposes will be accomplished. However, when the right time arrives for us to act by faith, we dare not delay.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe. All rights reserved.)

I read it, smiled and went on with my day, not anticipating the torpedo that was about to land in our lives, creating additional shockwaves.

When my spouse called to tell me the latest surprise that work had delivered us, my instinctive reaction was to panic. If you have seen the movie Over the Hedge by DreamWorks Animation, picture in your mind the scene where Hammy the squirrel looks up at the ominous hedge, thinks for a split second and then races left and right to see what this hedge thing is all about. He comes back and says, “It never ends!” and “It never ends that way too!”

Almost immediately after that surge of rising panic, the words I had read that morning flashed into my mind.

“Stand Still… and see the salvation of the Lord.”

“Sit still… until you know how the matter will turn out”

“Be still, and know that I AM GOD.

Instead of jumping up and rushing around in a frenzy, I sat still.

Literally.

I prayed right then and there. I didn’t get up and go find a quiet place. I stopped right where I was and prayed silently. I suddenly understood fully what Amy Carmichael meant in this poem:

He said, “I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God to-morrow
Will to His son explain.”
Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.
Not vain the word, not vain;
For in acceptance lieth peace.

~Amy Carmichael
(for full text of the poem, click here.)

Whoa.

I sat still. I prayed.

The anxiety evaporated. Instantly.

The peace came. Instantly.

Timing is everything. That encouraging email from my mother could not have come at a more crucial moment in my life.

Are you rushing around trying to stay ahead of the game? Are you facing an overwhelming situation?

If you are there, then read, re-read and fix your mind on Psalm 46, where the oft used verse “Be still” comes from:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Listen to the Words of the Lord. He is like a father talking to a trembling child:

Be still.

Be calm.

I am in control.

And my friends, He really is.

Building Trust Through Prayer

gotanxiety

I’ve done a lot of writing about prayer on this blog. There is a reason…

God commands us to pray.

The Bible is filled with of examples of prayer.

Prayer is communication with God, our Creator and Father.

How much do you trust someone that you rarely talk to?

Parents—how awesome do you feel when your kids confide their fears to you? It gives you an opportunity to comfort, reassure and guide your children. It strengthens the bond between you. Our Heavenly Father (God) wants the same opportunity, but how often do we pour out our anxiety and worry before Him?

For those who are not parents—I’m sure you have friends. Isn’t it a blessing to have friends to lean on? Friends give you a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, and a warm hug. We aren’t going to make ourselves vulnerable to our friends if we don’t trust them. We aren’t going to trust them if we never communicate with them. Do you trust God and confide in Him as you would a friend?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything.

Pray.

Don’t simply go through a list of requests to God. Communicate your fears to Him.

One thing people in the Old Testament did in some of their prayers was to remind God of His promises. This scripture says, don’t be anxious, but pray and give thanks and the peace of God will guard your heart and your mind. That’s a promise! If I stop dwelling on my worries and fears and hand them over to God, He will give me peace. If you are not feeling peace, reverently remind God of this promise from His word… oh yeah, and don’t forget to read the word too…

One of my favorite examples of prayer is the account of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 37. In the previous chapter, the King of Assyria (Sennacherib) had invaded Judah and was headed for Jerusalem. Sennacherib sent a message telling the people in Hezekiah that they have nothing in which to place their trust.

Here are some excerpts of Sennacherib’s message:

Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”

Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”

~Isaiah‬ ‭36‬:‭14-15, 18, 20‬ ESV

His servants bring him the message and he is overcome. Notice what he does in chapter 37. He sends a message to Isaiah the prophet:

“Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’”

‭Isaiah‬ ‭37‬:‭3-4‬ ESV

He asks a righteous person to pray for Him and for Judah.

Then, he gets a letter from the Rabshakeh, reiterating what his messengers had already told him. Hezekiah takes the letter, reads it and then goes to the house of the Lord.

Where do we go in our distress, fear, anxiety or doubt? Do we go to the Lord? Do we go to other believers or do we simple seek out the “experts.” Do we hide or do we seek help?

Hezekiah went to the house of the Lord.

When he gets there, he spreads the letter out before the Lord and prays:

“Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

“It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.

Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God. “

~Isaiah 37:16-20

I love this part. He spreads the letter before the Lord. God already knows what it says. God doesn’t really need to see it. Nevertheless, Hezekiah lays it before God. He shows God reverence in his prayer. He reminds God that the Assyrians have degraded the Lord. He acknowledges that deliverance will not come from his own might, but from God’s mighty hand.

Spread out your fears and doubts before the Lord. He knows the troubles you are facing, but tell Him anyway. As you tell Him your fears, show him reverence, remind Him of His promises and acknowledge that He is a God of power.

The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

To build trust: Read. Pray. Renew. Praise. Repeat.

Lord willing, we will talk about “Renew” in our next post.

Remember to pray, dear friends.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5.6-7)

~Elihu