Thursday, October 31, 2013

Who's Feeling Blue?

Are you feeling sorry for yourself? If so, welcome to the club. In a fit of depression, the painter Van Gogh cut his own ear off. Many sports, movie and pop stars sink into depression when their fame dims. Some kill themselves while others turn to drugs. I was shocked by my sister’s comments once, that many people use anti-depression pills to function ‘normally’ in the marketplace. It does seem depression is rife in our society.
How do we recognize depression? From observation and personal experience, one symptom is loss of hope. One feels there is no future and the mind becomes preoccupied with despair and pessimism. It causes loss of self-esteem as one thinks oneself to be a failure in life.
Emotions too become difficult to handle. I have seen tears, fear, anger overwhelm a person over the most minor incidents. It also leads to a lack of self-control. Some cannot eat while others indulge in overeating. Some cannot sleep while others sleep for long hours yet wake up to a chronic fatigue. Depression can lead to isolation from others; social activities are dreaded and phone calls are not returned. Sometimes, this is aggravated by well-meaning but insensitive remarks like “just move on”, “Jesus has given you the victory” “give up that pity party”, etc. Extreme depression can even lead to suicidal thoughts. Think back to Elijah crying out in 1 Kings 19:4, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life” because he saw no hope.
How would I deal with severe depression? I am not an expert but a good start would be to connect with our Lord regularly each day. I can praise him, seek him out in his Word and listen intently for his still small voice. God knows my thoughts anyway so I might as well be honest and tell him exactly how I think and feel. It’s best to lay my fears, frustration and all negative feelings before his throne of grace. After all, Christ is always listening.
I also believe one must pluck up the courage to ask for help. This is a tough act but we must be open to receiving another’s helping hand. Pastors especially need to awaken to this truth. They are so busy fulfilling the needs of others that they suppress or ignore their own need for help. It is the fear of being seen ‘unspiritual’ or ‘lacking in faith’. We should just ask. Christians generally are willing to help if they find the objective achievable. They might also counsel us of the primary things we should be focusing on instead of sweating over the ‘small stuff’. Helpers give us perspective. We should attend to the essential and be ‘thick-skinned’ and ignore the non-essentials even when there is pressure to do them and plaudits gained. Such counsel aids our healing tremendously.
Finally, grieving for any loss, whether it is the loss of self-esteem or the esteem of others or any other form of personal loss, does help tremendously. Grieving is cathartic, normal and a great aid to recovery. Elijah grieved, ate and slept. Only after that was he ready to listen to the gentle whisper of God. It worked for Elijah and should work for us too. Hearing God’s voice assures us of his care and compassion for his children. In that still small voice is the hope of the meaningful future our Lord Jesus has planned for us if we are willing to focus not on self or circumstances but on our sovereign Lord.
Cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Moving Forward, Staying Together

At our ECM last Sunday, 67% voted in favour of taking up auditorium and ancillary space in the PCS Hub. The requirement of a 2/3 majority was determined by the EDC even though the EDC was empowered to just call for a simple majority vote. Behind the decision was the thought that a weighty decision such as this was not to be taken lightly by just a simple majority vote.
Am I disappointed that the resolution was not carried by a greater majority which would indicate unwavering support? I am not. God’s sovereign hand is over all matters of man. Further, I have met with some of those who voiced their disagreement with the move. They too are God-loving, Christ-following Christians who prayed over the matter and I respect their decision to vote according to their conscience as they sense God’s leading. One would have to be self-righteous to dismiss their voices as misguided. I surely do not and I am thankful to God for their maturity in being transparent about the concerns in their hearts.
However, I believe God still wants us to move together as his people whichever way one voted. The less-than resounding majority is simply an invitation to not just look to our Lord, but to actually LEAN on him, in this challenging moment. With sincere affection, may I hearken all of us to the big picture that he desires for us - to love our neighbour as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27b). Jesus wants us to love God and love people, in that order. He reinforced this application to our relationship with fellow believers, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Our Lord’s desire for His Body is that we love and be concerned for each other even when we do not agree with one another. That is how we bring glory to God and validate our discipleship by pursuing unity out of humility and service, even when we do not get our way. That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write "If you have any encouragement from being united in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:1-3).
Jesus’ message to his church is very clear - we are ONE BODY regardless of different opinions. What God desires is that we love one another no matter what has transpired. We cannot maintain un-christlike attitudes toward people with whom we worship Christ together. We should choose to be loving and kind even when we feel otherwise. God has commanded this of us and he will provide the grace for us to obey, if we yield to his Spirit’s leading. Whatever has happened, God knows all about it. Yet, he will tell us it does not change His Word that we are to love one another.
It is best to stay forward-focused by looking up to Heaven as we will spend eternity together having been connected as members of the Body of Christ. That is always better than looking at life through a rear-view mirror. As we press on, one day we will reap the fruit of perseverance and praise God with joy, having seen his overcoming grace at work in this journey.