We are at the baseball game, the bases are loaded! Bottom of the 9th. Last game of the world series. The score, they are winning by 3 points. One more home run and we win the game. The stadium is at maximum capacity. The crowd is going nuts! Everyone is yelling and screaming in excitement! Then I get up to bat and what happens? A silence falls upon the stadium. The pitcher throws the first ball, Strike 1! The crowd goes crazy! How could he have missed that? Come on pitcher… Throw it right! Then…Silence… the pitcher winds up and…Strike 2! What is this? Come on keep your eye on the ball, the crowd is screaming! This is it… Final throw for the game. Then I step back, look to the sky and in my mind I say, this is it God, if I miss this one, its over. The crowd will boo me, my team is gonna hate me, my career in major league baseball is over. Please be with me, I pray. I step back into the batters box, I look out toward my fellow players on the bases. Looking towards the outfield. I see the perfect spot, it’s in between the center and left outfielders. It’s wide open. That’s where I need to hit the ball. Then, I look at the pitcher. He is winding up, he is about to release the ball. As he does, in slow motion, I’m praying, God, please let me hit this ball. The ball gets closer. God, Ill do anything you want. Just say it! Now it’s even closer. I’m your guy God. Closer! Just please let me hit this ball. About this time, I start forward with my bat. I’m in mid-swing and I screams out to God, Please God Give Me The Strength to Hit it! About that time, the ball is right over the plate, the ball comes in contact with the bat. There is a huge loud Smack! The sound resignate threw the air. I hit it God! Now, I gotta run! God please help me get to first base. I’m almost there, what are they yelling? My coach is screaming at me, what? Go to the next base? Why? Ok, I’m not stopping to ask why. So as I start to second base, I hear him yell, Go Boy Go!. I get to second base and I look down to the coach at the 3rd base. Why is he waving me on? Come on he is saying. Why? Ok, so I keep running. Harder and harder towards 3rd base. I get near third base and I hear him yelling, Keep Going Boy! Keep going!! As I head towards home plate, I see the other teams catcher and umpire looking at me! Why are they staring at me? About this time I notice the crowd is going absolutely crazy. What is going on? Why? As I near home plate, I don’t hear the coach yelling slide? Why? Am I just gonna run across the base? About that time, the other team’s catcher steps back. Oh no, he’s gonna catch the ball and tag me out! Why God? Why did you let me get this far to have me out? Why? About that time I cross home plate. I slow down and listen… What? What are they yelling? What’s on the big score board? Huh? Then I stop and look… HOME RUN? How? I’ve not hit a home run in months, no a couple years! How? Why? What??? My team is running out jumping up and down! Everyone is going absolutely crazy! Then I remembered. I had ask God for help! As they all near me, I drop to my knees, tears by now running down my face and scream out… Thank You God! As I kneel there sobbing, my mind goes back to that day when I was in high school and my Dad had been in a car wreck and he was laying on the hospital bed dying. The doctors had given us no hope that he would survive. I touched my dad’s hand and cried, Please God, Please let my Daddy live. I’ll do anything, just please let him live. I look up, Dad is jumping up and down clapping in the stands. As I stand up, sobbing, I glance to my wife, she is holding our baby girl. The same one that before she was born, the doctors said she would only live maybe a couple minutes, if not seconds. But she is alive and perfectly healthy. I begged and prayed for the last 4 months of the pregnancy, God, Ill do anything, just please let my baby girl live. God Anything! As my team is now lifting me onto their shoulders, my mind flashes to that night that I was flying with my team last week and we went threw the thunderstorm, just about that time, lightening struck our plane. As we began to descend quickly, I remembered, please God, Please don’t let me dye here. I wanna hold my baby girl one more time. About that time, the pilots regained control. As they are carrying me around now, the hero of the night. I look down, the bat I had swung was broke in two. How did that happen? The crowd was not calming down. After awhile, we all walked into the locker room. After I stopped and regained my composure, I yelled out, Hey Guys, Listen Up! As I stood there and shared what had happened and how that God had answered so many prayers in my life. I asked the team to join me in a thankful prayer. We all knelt down and I began to pray. Thank you God … I continued the prayer … Amen. Showers were over, some are walking out of the locker room headed for their cars, when one of my teammates come from behind and takes my arm. Hey Dude. I turned and looked at him. I saw tears in his eyes. I said, Hey man, whats up? So you really believe in this Jesus dude? Yes, I do man. Did he really answer your prayer about your dad back then? Yes he did buddy. Man, I remember all that stuff with your daughter. I thought the doctors just goofed up. It was really him that did it? I looked at him and said, Do you not know this man who saved us last week on the plane? That was him too? Yes, it was. No dude, I don’t. Where do I meet this Jesus Guy? I looked at him and said, Right here man. As we sat down on the bench, I had the opportunity to lead my team mate to Jesus. It turned his life around. He today is a pastor at a church in our town. It was later the next season that he and I both got to tell our stories to the new team mates. Three of them came to know the Lord that day. As I lay here an old man, I look back over my life all these times and I see the number of times that Christ saved my life and allowed me to share Him with others around me. I close my eyes and I hear a voice saying, Well done my good and faithful servant, welcome home.
God, I thank you for my friends and family. I thank you that you have answered so many prayers in my life. You have protected me beyond what anyone can imagine. You are such an awesome God. I pray that my life can be like this man in the story. A testimony of your love, grace and power. Thank you again God for loving and protecting me. In Your Holy Name I Pray, Amen.
Me: Morning fellas!
Shame: You’re awfully chipper this morning.
Guilt: Yeah, you might want to rethink that.
Me: Relax, guys, I just woke up.
Guilt: You probably should have gotten up after your third alarm. Starting another day behind.
Shame: You’re so lazy. You do this every time.
Me: I know, I am trying, though.
Guilt: Maybe you should try harder.
Shame: Maybe you should stop trying.
Guilt: Shame, he can get better. He has made changes in the past.
Shame: How many times have we said that before?
Me: He’s not wrong.
Guilt: He’s just so mean sometimes.
Shame: I’m not mean, I’m just keeping it real. This is why we can’t keep a job or a relationship or any meaningful thing in our life.
Guilt: Man, I hate feeling this way. I wish we could just do better.
Me: Me too. Me too.
Shame: Not going to work.
This article is part of the Open Letters series.
Depression is tough at the best of times. Perhaps it’s the best of times, such as holiday times, when it’s especially tough. The thought of mixing with happy people fills you with dread. The thought of remembering lost loved ones fills you with gloom. How can people be so happy when you are so sad? How can people celebrate when you are in mourning? It jars your soul and scrapes your tender wounds, doesn’t it?
You may want to run away and hide from the noisy busyness and the social obligations. Or you may want to lash out at the insensitive and uncaring people who exhort you to “Cheer up!” Or maybe you just want to drown your sorrows with binge drinking, binge eating, or binge TV-watching. But none of these options—running out, lashing out, or pigging out—will improve your depression. Indeed, they will only make it worse.
Let me propose a better way that will enable you to carefully navigate this holiday season while also contributing to your long-term healing.
I know prayer is perhaps too obvious, but sometimes we miss the obvious. Bring your burden to the Lord, tell him your fears and dreads, and seek his help to push through these daunting days. Lament by saying “Lord, I don’t want to give thanks, I don’t want to celebrate Christmas, and I don’t want to live through another year.” Admit, saying: “God, I can’t stand happiness right now and I can’t abide people.” Confess: “This is wrong and sinful, but I can’t seem to change.” Plead: “Lord, I am weak, I need your power, I need your patience, I need your joy.” Promise: “I will rely on you alone to carry me and even use this time for my help and healing.”
It’s amazing how the gospel can turn the greatest pain into the greatest therapy.
Not everyone among your family and friends understands depression; but some do, as you know. Give them a call, or, better, meet with them, and talk to them about what you dread during this season. Ask them to pray for you and to support you in the coming days. Ask them to stay by your side in social settings, to protect you from those who don’t understand, to accept your silences, and to help you withdraw quietly when you have reached your limits of socializing.
Although burnout is growing increasingly common among men in ministry, it doesn’t have to be inevitable. Pastor and counselor David Murray offers men gospel-centered hope for avoiding and recovering from burnout, setting a more sustainable pace.
While it’s not wise to totally withdraw from social life during the holidays, neither is it wise to force yourself to go to every social gathering. Total withdrawal will only depress you further; but so will total immersion. You just don’t have the emotional and mental fuel for it. So, plan ahead and choose wisely which social occasions you will go to and how long to spend there. Perhaps try to avoid going to too many gatherings on consecutive days or evenings. You need downtime to be quiet and to refuel. Perhaps you can plan to attend a gathering but not stay from the beginning to the end. That’s more inviting in prospect and more beneficial in retrospect. The aim is to pace yourself and make sure you are getting sufficient time to rebuild your energy levels.
Regular routine is vital for those with depression. Your body, mind, and soul flourish when you are following a predictable pattern of sleeping, eating, working, and relaxing. All this is threatened by the irregularity and unpredictability of the holidays. You will have to accept a degree of change in this area in these weeks, yet still fight to maintain as much regularity as you can. You don’t want to waste all your good work in this area.
Keep up a fitness regime. I know from personal experience how hard it is to be consistent in this area over the holidays. There’s so much sitting around, and so, so much food. But it’s so important for your physical, mental, and spiritual health to maintain your discipline here. If my experience is anything to go by, you won’t keep it perfectly. But do what you can. Even if you can’t get to the gym, try to get outside and walk in the daylight for 20-30 minutes a day.
Preach to Yourself
You have an internal narrative, the story that you are telling yourself. You’ve done a great job of rewriting that story over the past few months. The dark chapters that were so full of what you lost with these painful family bereavements have now given way to many bright paragraphs of how much your loved one has gained in heaven and of your hope of eventual and eternal reunion. You’ve also managed by God’s grace to expand that part of the story which focuses on how much you still have in your life. Keep writing these chapters in your mind and heart—the longer the better.
Now, you’re going to be tempted in the next few weeks to write a chapter that dwells on the present estrangement with your daughter and how much you miss her at family occasions. While we can’t deny the reality of this, and we continue to pray and work toward reconciliation, can I suggest that you write another chapter in parallel with it? Write a chapter on the way God has reconciled you to his Son through his death on the cross (Eph. 2:14–18; 2 Cor. 5:18–21). Fixing your mind on this greatest estrangement and reconciliation story will help you to balance a bitter experience with the sweetest experience, and will also give you hope in God’s reconciling power. It’s amazing how the gospel can turn the greatest pain into the greatest therapy.
You can also preach to yourself by singing the Gospel to yourself. Remember how much you enjoyed Handel’s “Messiah” last year? Why don’t we go again? Attend your church’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Sing these Gospel-rich songs and make melody in your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19).
Preach to Others
I don’t want to lay a heavy burden on you here, but why not look for and take opportunities to witness to others? The unbelievers in your family will be looking to see how you react to your recent losses and how you are responding to your depression. They will see you are sad and they will ask how you are doing. How about this for an answer: “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). That should startle them! But is will also start some profitable conversations that give you an opportunity to testify to God’s grace to you in these days. Sometimes, ministering to others is the best way to minister to yourself.
From A Restored Warriors Brother:
These two pennies do not look the same. The one on the left is dirty and faded. The one the right is shiny and you can see President Lincoln clearly. I feel like the penny on the left sometimes. My sins have caused me to look faded and dirty. But we need to remember that our value is still the same because of salvation. Our value in God’s eyes see a penny. Does not matter if we are a shiny penny or a faded one. God sees the same value.
As a Nation that has so many freedoms, some of them have become obvious that God never ordained them to be in existence. We have over the years become very tolerant and obscured to many of them. Yet, God has reminded us many times to repent of our short comings. We have become very tolerant of such things as abortion, pornography, sexual identity and hatred towards each other. Father Forgive Us!
Today, will you join with me in praying God would Forgive Us and our Nation of our shortcomings!
Father God, creator of all good and perfect things. Have mercy on me. Father, in all the ways that I have allowed, endorsed and participated in the corruption of our great nation. Father, forgive me. Father, We have become very tolerant of abortion, pornography, sexual identity and hatred towards each other. Father I ask for your Holy Spirit to invade my life, take over the areas that are not of your will and refill me to your perfect being, that you once made me. Father, as your child, I profess that I have failed in keeping my eyes, thoughts, heart and mind pure the way you me to be. Father Forgive Me. Father, as a nation, once created in your statutes, please forgive us for the areas we have allowed corruption to overtake us. Father as a member of this nation, I repent and I ask you to forgive us. Father, please do not withhold your grace, mercy and love from our nation, but restore your presence and deliver us from the corruptions which we have allowed. Father, we thank you for your restoration powers and for your forgiveness and deliverance from the forces of evil. Father, renew our minds, hearts and lives to your fullness and perfect love. In your Holy Name we pray this, Amen.
‘Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. ‘ 2 Chronicles 7:14
This article is part of the Open Letters series.
What words can I say to you when your life is hard and you are hurting? If we were face to face, I probably wouldn’t start with words at all. I would want you to talk when you are able. I want to know you, what you are going through, what it is like for you, and how you are doing. Simply being present and conveying that tears, heartache, and confusion are valid would probably be more helpful. Many wise Christians have commented that Job’s counselors did well until they opened their mouths (Job 2:11-13), and I certainly don’t think there is some magic word that will make everything better.
But when it comes time to say something, I might say this: Jesus is a most sympathetic friend, fellow sufferer, and Savior. He has walked a hard road. He has felt his own anguish and crushing pain (Isaiah 53). He understands. He is compassionate toward you. By the comfort of his presence and sympathy, he intends to draw you out and draw you to Himself.
Be honest. Don’t take any shortcuts. Let each day’s trouble be sufficient for that day.
I encourage you to go to him and speak to him. There is something about our ability to find words to express what we’re experiencing that makes a genuine difference. A wise Christian of many centuries ago said, “To open one’s heart to one’s friend—it doubles our joys and cuts our griefs in half.” I have found this to be true. Sharing a joy really does double the joy. And of course, sharing heartache never takes it all away — but there’s something about speaking to someone who truly cares about you that soothes your wounds. You are not alone.
The psalms, which are so full of heartache and so full of faith, often start with simply giving voice to the experience of suffering. As they do, it’s significant to notice that they don’t simply cry out in a scream of pain. They cry out to God who hears, who cares, who draws near, who helps. We can speak to our God. May you cry out to our God. He calls you his friend. He deeply cares for you. He is your Savior. Trust Him. He has walked down this road before you. He promises to walk with you in this.
Exploring the biblical truths found in each stanza of the classic hymn “How Firm a Foundation,” David Powlison invites us to see God’s perspective on and purpose for our suffering.
And I might say one more thing. Suffering must be walked through one step at a time. Be honest. Don’t take any shortcuts. Let each day’s trouble be sufficient for that day. Seek your Father. If you seek him, you will find him.