3 Characteristics of Depression in the Bible

I saw someone share a post on social media the other day that countered the saying, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” It explained that, sometimes, we are given more than we can handle because it is in those moments that we are to lean on God for strength to get through our circumstances.

There are many circumstances that are crippling, suffocating, and paralyzing, that render us incapable of making it through on our own. What happens when these situations come into our lives? How can we get through these seasons of overwhelming fear, doubt, and depression? Perhaps you already know the stories of Job, Naomi, David, and Elijah, but I hope today’s post and exploration of depression in the Bible is a reminder to you that you are never alone in your struggles.

Without further ado, we’ll dive into three aspects of depression as addressed in the Bible and explore how we can recognize, understand, and find helpful solutions in seasons of depression.

1) A Bitter Feeling, A Miserable Existence

“I’m nothing. I don’t matter.”

Maybe you’ve said these words to yourself at some point in your life – lies that the enemy of our soul tries to make us believe when we’re vulnerable. Both of these statements and every iteration are complete lies straight from the devil, but it’s easy to convince yourself of them.

“I’m nothing,” I once thought, but then God reminded me I’m not.

Did I die for nothing?

No, He didn’t. He died for me. He died for you, and He cares for you more than you could ever fathom. You are not “nothing.” But sometimes, the feeling of depression and misery is overwhelming, temporarily keeping you from believing the truth.

We may even come to hate ourselves and hate our lives. Job’s monologues implied that he suffered from such misery:

“My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.”
Job 10:1 KJV

Naomi, after losing her husband and her sons, asked to be called “Mara,” which means “bitter” (see Ruth 1:20). We know that David experienced much emotional imbalance stemming from the traumas he faced and mistakes he made in his life:

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel…But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”
Psalms 22:1-3, 6 KJV

David constantly went from lamenting his situation to praising the Lord to feeling abandoned by God to declaring his trust in Him. Many who suffer from depression struggle with this kind of emotional imbalance. They seem to be up and down. Fine one day and at rock bottom the next. Living life on an emotional roller coaster breeds more misery and exhaustion. When we rely on our feelings to determine what judgments to make about our lives and ourselves, we’ll be prone to emotional instability and dissatisfaction with life.

2) Isolation and Silence

“I just want to be alone, to go somewhere no one knows me, and live alone with my thoughts.”

Maybe you’ve had this thought before. There are certainly benefits to having alone time, and when we go through difficult times, we need moments to sort out our thoughts and be with God. But too much isolation and silence can also prevent us from processing grief or difficult situations in a healthy way and keep up from moving forward. Nevertheless, we see isolation and silence as symptoms depression or grief in the Bible as well. When Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life, he left his servant at Beer-Sheba and traveled alone into the wilderness (see 1 Kings 19:1-4). Job went silent for seven days after losing his family:

“So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.”
Job 2:13 KJV

Being unable to speak is a sign of deep emotional stress, and isolating yourself with your thoughts in this time can be even more dangerous. If we don’t allow ourselves to seek after God in these moments, then we may become lost in thoughts of hopelessness and, even worse, suicide.

3) Wishing for Death

“God, I can’t do this anymore. Just take me.”

Maybe this thought has crossed your mind as well. To many, death seems like the only way to no longer feel the pain of loss or the emotional stress of financial struggles, family turmoil, or physical illness. I’ll admit I had this thought once when I was sick with undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes and felt purely miserable, like I was dying. And I had this thought again when faced with the possibility of having no income and no medical insurance. The stress and fear were overwhelming. In a moment of emotional and mental exhaustion, I just didn’t want to feel like that anymore. For me, the thought of asking God to take my life and get it over with was a fleeting one, but for many, this thought is a constant mindset as depression weighs heavily on their souls.

In biblical times, certain accounts show people who also experienced these feelings or wishing for death. We read in Job that he wished he had not even been born:

“Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived…Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?”
Job 3:3, 11 KJV
“Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off! Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.”
Job 6:8-10 KJV

Elijah also wished God would take his life:

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”
1 Kings 19:4 KJV

As Carlton Coon wrote in his book Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression, Elijah “was not having a blue day” (Coon 37). Wishing for death and isolating oneself are signs that someone is suffering from depression. This person doesn’t see a way out. They don’t see any value in their life anymore. They feel less than. They feel worthless.

But Jesus is the Path through dark times.

Each of these people – Job, Naomi, Elijah, and David – continued to live for God even when they experienced hardship and suffered from symptoms of depression. Though there were times when David felt alone, he continued to seek God. Though Job wished for death and lamented in his grief, he maintained reverence for God: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter upon the earth” (Job 19:25 KJV). From reading about the emotional struggles of important biblical figures, we can understand that these mental battles are not unique to our time. If they could overcome and survive bouts of depression, so can we. It is the same merciful God who spoke to and comforted them who will speak to and comfort you and me today.

In every mental or emotional struggle you may face, don’t stop talking to God, and don’t stop listening for His voice.

No matter what, we cannot discount the importance of making prayer and Bible studying our daily lifestyle because it is in those dark times that we will need to rely on our walk with God all the more.

Navigating a Season of Depression

Depression.

We’ve all been there. Whether we’ve lost a loved one or suffered another kind of loss or setback, most of us know what it is like to struggle with feelings of depression. But depression affects us all differently and to varying degrees.

I’ve been reading Rev. Carlton Coon’s book Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression, and I wanted to share some important points with you from Encountering Depression that may help you or someone you love learn how to navigate depression.

1. There is significance in variety.

As I stated in the intro of this post, depression affects us all to different degrees. Reverend Coon references everything from mild seasons of depression or grief to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), which we used to call clinical depression (Coon 21). Below are some examples of the common ways depression affects people:

  • Increased isolation
  • Disinterest in normal activities
  • No appetite
  • Brain fog
  • Increased tiredness
  • Decreased sense of self-worth
  • Anger
  • Suicidal thoughts

There are many more ways depression can affect a person’s mood or lifestyle, but the variance in how we experience depression is significant. We in the community of people who want to increase awareness of mental health issues and help others understand them may forget that there are people out there who still dismiss mental illness and believe depression to be a figment of the imagination. Those who have experienced depression or have a loved one or friend who has know otherwise.

No two people are exactly alike in every conceivable way, and depression’s different effects on us are proof of that. You may become angry and lash out at others when suffering from depression, but someone else might feel intensely sad or simply numb. These different experiences further prove that mental health and mental health issues need to be discussed all the more so that everyone can recognize whether they or someone they know is experiencing a serious mental health problem and find healthy solutions to get through it. The differences in how depression affects everyone who suffers from it do not take away from the seriousness of this disease but instead show that no person’s experience with depression should be dismissed or belittled.

2. There is healing in simplicity.

Just as there is variety in how depression grips each person who experiences it, there is also variety in how a person should respond to and navigate this difficult season. In Encountering Depression, Reverend Coon emphasizes balance and simplicity. If a person is emotionally balanced, then depression is less likely to overwhelm them (Coon 62). Too much on one’s plate is often a recipe for becoming overwhelmed, which is why simplifying one’s routine may prove beneficial. As Coon states, dealing with too much “leads to exhaustion, which is a fertile field in which depression often takes root” (Coon 82).

Consider the following tips for simplifying your routine and engaging in activities that may help you navigate depression:

  • Remove yourself from non-essential projects and activities.
  • Get yourself outside and go for nature walks.
  • Take a break from social media.
  • Set a simple daily routine.
  • Take time to rest.

There is a reason we need rest so much. As imperfect humans, our minds and bodies can only take so much before we become weary. An overloaded mind and body often results in burnout and feeds depression. We must take time regularly to unplug, get outside, remove ourselves from activities that may be weighing us down, and give ourselves time to breathe, pray, and repeat.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.“

Matthew 11:28 KJV

Just breathe. Just pray. Rest. Read the Word. And repeat the process.

And we know that getting through a season of depression is a p r o c e s s. But it is doable by learning how to understand what we’re experiencing and why, finding healthy ways to get through it, and finding rest and strength in God’s presence.

“To God, who divided dark from light, the darkness and light are both essential to His creation. Endure the darkness – in time the dawn will come.”

Reverend Carlton Coon, Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression

Reference:

Coon Sr., Carlton L. Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression. 2019.

2 Reasons Why You Can’t Hear God’s Voice

Are you paying attention?

We all experience moments when we wonder why we can’t hear the voice of God in our lives. Prayer is two-way communication—our prayers going up to God and His voice coming down to us. Just like in any relationship, there can’t be any development when only one person talks the entire time and the other person only ever listens. We must give space for God to speak to us in our lives. Sometimes, however, we may still feel unable to hear Him or connect with His voice.

What’s wrong with me? you may wonder. Has God left me? Am I all alone? Does God hate me?

The answer may not seem so, but it is simple. No, God hasn’t left you, for He never leaves nor forsakes us. No, God doesn’t hate you, for nothing can separate you from His unending love for you. Today, we’re going to look at two simple reasons why you may not be able to hear the voice of God in your life.

But first, let’s check out the text for today’s blog post:

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:”

Romans 1:1-4 (KJV)

Now, you might be wondering what this passage has to do with hearing God’s voice. Bear with me a moment as we begin with the first thing that can block you from hearing God.

1) Distractions – Too Much Noise

Have you ever been praying somewhere in your house away from your family when suddenly you hear them stomping around in the hallway or kitchen, seemingly banging on pots and pans like wild chimpanzees? The noise becomes so distracting that it pulls you away from your thoughts and focus on God until all you can think about is how annoying your family is. It’s hard to get back into focused prayer when there’s a lot of noise going on. It’s hard to listen to what God is saying when your thoughts are somewhere else.

In the beginning of Romans, we read that the prophecy of Jesus Christ and his death, burial, and resurrection were revealed to the prophets of the Old Testament. Verse 2 states that God promised this “afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures.” This shows that God is in communication with His people and that He gave us the promise of deliverance and salvation. Unfortunately, there are always those who are not paying attention to the prophecy.

People who are paying attention when God speaks will receive the promise and His blessings. People who are paying attention act on the promise and become messengers of the Gospel. Others do not receive because they are too distracted with other voices in the world—noises like the lies the enemy tells them or the sounds of society’s praise when they give into the pressure to embrace the lifestyle of the world that will only lead them to destruction and emptiness.

What sounds are you allowing to distract you from hearing God? Are you struggling with depression and the voice of the enemy lying to you, telling you that you can’t be used of God, that God doesn’t love you anymore, that you’ve gone too far from His presence? Are you investing more of your time in entertainment, social media, or fitting in with your friends or coworkers who don’t live for God? Are you weary and burdened with financial struggles, relationship problems, or a busy schedule? Are you constantly worried about political issues and the direction society is headed?

Whatever issue you might be facing, you allow it to prevent you from hearing God’s voice when you give more space in your mind to those thoughts than to thoughts that please God.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

When your thoughts become too distracted, try this exercise: write down one thing for each description in Philippians 4:8 (something that is true, something that is honest, something that is just, etcetera) that counters your negative, distracted thoughts and then take some time to praise God for His goodness. You might find that this will help you focus your mind on Him so that you can tune into His voice.

2) Denial – “That Wasn’t God”

Another reason people do not hear the voice of God is that they are in denial.

God told people about His coming through prophecies, but many did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. Even though God speaks to and through His people of His plans and of salvation, there will still be those who are not moved and who do not believe. Instead, they deny the truth and dismiss His voice.

You’ve heard the saying, “the truth hurts.” The truth in Scripture and God’s words do hurt the flesh, the carnal nature that only wants to please itself. The voice of God may seem inconvenient to the flesh, depriving many of getting something their flesh wants or shining a light on things in their life that they’ve kept hidden from others.

For those who choose the way of the world, the truth is not convenient. The coming of Jesus Christ and His words brought the sins of many pious Jews to light. Not only did they ignore prophecy, but they sought to kill Jesus.

For those who prefer to listen to the voice of their flesh, the voice of God isn’t comfortable. The disciples were focused on their own desires in seeing the Romans overthrown and reestablishing the kingdom of Israel, and the truth that Jesus didn’t come for that reason was hard for them to accept. Matthew 16:22 states that Peter began to rebuke Jesus for saying He would be killed:

“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go into Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day, then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

Matthew 16:21-23 (KJV)

Jesus called Peter “Satan” for denying the truth and savoring, or entertaining, the things of man, or of the flesh. Jesus has called us to instead deny ourselves and follow Him (see Matthew 16:24).

Often in our lives, we might hear the truth or the voice of God, and because we are feeding our flesh too much, we deny that it’s the truth. We deny that we really heard from God. Have you ever felt conviction when your Pastor was preaching or during prayer and then immediately thought, “That wasn’t for me. That wasn’t God?”

The more we deny the truth, the more we delay His promise. The more we fill our minds with noise, the more we forget what His voice sounds like. We are called to be ambassadors and messengers of the truth to this lost world. Through Christ, we are more than conquerors of the struggles that we may face. We have a purpose and a promise.

Don’t let distractions and denial keep you from receiving that promise of salvation and walking in His purpose and calling for your life. Jesus is calling you to something greater than you could ever imagine. His thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

It’s time to turn off the noise, deny the flesh, and tune into the voice of the Lord.

2 Ways to Boost Your Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Month is over, but we’ll be discussing mental health throughout the year (and past that, of course) here on BPR. Even with all the attempts across social media to talk about mental health and discuss ways to treat and overcome mental health struggles, there are still many within society who often dismiss it as a serious aspect of our lives that needs to be addressed. When we talk about boosting mental health, we often refer to activities we do for therapy or mood boosters like going for walks or listening to music. But there are other aspects of our own mental health, such as thought patterns, that require behavioral changes.

Here are 2 ways I have found to be helpful in improving my mental and spiritual health:

1) Be self-aware.

We must be aware of why we think and feel the way we do about people or situations in our lives. As an introvert, I tend to spend a LOT of time inside my head. It comes naturally to me to put my emotions under a microscope and figure out where they’re coming from.

Being aware of the causes behind our own emotions and actions can make us aware of things within us that need to be addressed. For instance, if a person who constantly says nasty things in anger does enough reflection and examination, then that person may find out that the reason they lash out verbally is because of a situation in their past in which someone may have betrayed them. Every time I make a mistake or say something I shouldn’t, I think of when Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” If it’s not in the heart, it won’t come through the mouth.

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.”

Matthew 15:18 (KJV)

Taking time to examine yourself, especially through prayer, can help you better understand yourself and work to overcome damaging behavior or thoughts.

Jodie Smith, a pastor’s wife with a degree in counseling who has written on mental health from a biblical and spiritual perspective, said in her book Bursting Alive: Healing Your Damaged Emotions Through Your Miracle Journey to Wholeness, “A healthy person lives in a world of honesty and reality.” Working to be more self-aware in order to improve our behavior and mindset requires honesty, which brings us to another way we can improve our mental health.

2) Admit when you’re wrong or made a mistake.

I know, this one can be difficult for those who have the need to always be “right.” Y’all, I will admit that as a strong-headed, knowledge-loving, youngest child, the need to be “right” or have the “right answer” all the time has been a lifelong struggle for me. Learning to become more self-aware can lead to recognizing and understanding our own faults and flaws. When we do, people tend to split off into one of two categories: hiding and denying mistakes or admitting and trying to overcome them.

As Smith writes in Bursting Alive, an unhealthy person who is in denial of their own flaws lives in an invented reality. They shirk responsibility, and they may often try to hide their pain or guilt through addictions or unhealthy behavior (Smith, Bursting Alive, 21-24). Whereas a healthy person is willing to accept responsibility, wanting only the truth.

Sometimes, the truth is that we have made a terrible mistake. Sometimes, the truth is that the reason we’re struggling so much is because we’ve got some cleaning up to do in our hearts. Maybe it’s bitterness or idolatry or addiction or another form of sin. Maybe it’s a weight or burden that we need to let go of and surrender to God.

Being honest with yourself is the first step to healing.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV)

Once we become self-aware and admit our own mistakes, then we can move forward with repentance, opening the door for God’s grace and mercy to deliver and heal us.

That is when God can move and do a work in our lives.

And so I encourage whoever is reading this to take some time and examine yourself. Be open and honest with yourself about the things you’re struggling with. And then find a place to pray so that God can help you heal.

How to Help Each Other Heal

Photo courtesy of the Help Me Heal Ministries Facebook page.

Healing should not be a solitary process.

Can you think of a time when you were healing from a difficult experience and managed to go through that process alone with no outside help? Whether it’s the prayers of others, financial or emotional support, or having a group of friends to find comfort in, we need each other to help us through the healing process.

Last week, I attended the Help Me Heal Conference in Springfield, Missouri, in which there were many lessons and sermons on the various aspects of healing, taking care of your physical and mental health, and dealing with different kinds of trauma. It’s an important annual conference that you should certainly attend if you’re in the greater Springfield area! We all have trauma in our lives and difficult circumstances that we’ve had to face. No one has experienced life without having to go through some kind of grief, loss, trauma, or physical or emotional issue, and we are all in need of healing.

Reverend Carlton Coon, who has authored many books one of which is titled Encountering Depression (which you should definitely check out!), spoke about healing and its connection to the members of the church on the first night of the conference. He explained that helping each other heal “is the ministry of the saints.” Indeed, as the body of Christ, we are to help each other along the healing process. None of us are scar-free, sadly, and we all have some healing to do.

So, why not help each other during this process? The church is meant to be a place where the hurting can go and find healing in the presence of God and comfort among the people of God. Often, we let our flesh and personalities get in the way of what the church is meant to be. Rather than help each other heal, we tend to tear each other down, criticize, or dismiss each other’s backgrounds and experiences altogether. Something I’ve become more aware of as I’ve gotten older and experienced more difficulties in life is that you simply may never know what someone else is dealing with or has gone through. Kindness and a smile can go a long way in helping comfort someone who is in need of healing.

How can we truly help each other heal?

1. Be mindful of the things you say to each other.

We’ve all been on both the receiving and the giving end of helpful “advice.” Sometimes, though the words may be well-intentioned, one’s “advice” to someone going through a difficult time can do more harm than good.

The following sayings are often used as advice to the hurting:

“Just move on.”

“Get over it.”

“It could be worse.”

The first two statements imply that healing is easily achieved by making a single decision, as though that decision is also easily made. There are things in my life that have caused my family and I to experience a great deal of emotional trauma, and to this day, we are in many ways not “over” it. How can one simply move on from loss? How can one simply get over a traumatic experience?

Healing is not simple, and we must rely on a close relationship with God to give us strength to navigate each day and each part of the process.

The third statement dismisses a person’s feelings and belittles his or her experiences as though they are not as bad as they seem, and this may be true. However, if someone is going through depression because they lost a loved one or a job, for example, telling them their situation could be worse may indicate to them that you are judging their reaction to their situation.

There is a right time to remind a person of the things they still have to be grateful for and a wrong time. If a woman suffers a miscarriage, it would not be wise to say, “Well, at least you’ve got another child. It could be worse.” But there may be a moment when this woman is ready and able to find comfort in her other children during the healing process.

This is why it is essential that we give careful thought to the impact our words may have on someone who is trying to heal.

2. Don’t underestimate the importance of your prayers for the hurting.

It is a great comfort to know people are praying for you and truly care for your emotional well being. When my grandmother passed away last year, although I was of course saddened from knowing that I would not see her again in this life, I remember feeling a sense of peace and comfort that I couldn’t explain. Somehow knowing that there were people out there praying for my family and I helped us heal.

It’s easy to say that you’re going to pray for someone and then never do it. You get busy, you forget, and maybe you later mention them in passing in your prayer time. But how much more impactful would your prayers be if you really spent time lifting up the name of someone in need of healing to God in prayer?

You may never know the comfort these words can bring to someone in pain: “I just want you to know that I am praying for you.”

When someone has ever said this to me, it reminds me that someone out there does care and that just maybe I’m not alone after all.

3. Don’t judge someone stuck in the healing process.

Everyone handles difficulties and different emotions, well, differently. Two people may go through the same experience and be in different stages of the healing process. Person A may have been able to accept the situation while Person B may still be angry about it. It wouldn’t be helpful or very understanding for Person A to say, “Why hasn’t Person B moved on yet? What’s wrong with her? I’ve moved on. Yesterday she was fine, and now she’s upset about it again. She needs to let it go.”

And then out come the unhelpful bits of “advice” that people tend to give.

Healing is not linear. It’s not a ladder but rather a circle, and you may go back and forth between anger to sadness to acceptance to denial to sadness to acceptance to anger over and over and over again. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing, and there is no easy solution.

It is true that you may never truly get over or move on from a loss or from trauma, as though all that is required to “move on” is the passage of time. We often expect that after a few years or so, a person should just magically be able to move on now.

“All right, Bob, it’s been four years since your wife died. You should be over it by now.”

Not exactly the right mindset when it comes to helping others heal or understanding how someone may struggle with healing. You’ve heard the saying, “Time helps heal all wounds,” and that is partially true. But I’ve found that time sometimes only gives a person distance between them and the moment of trauma, and all it takes for their scabbed over wound to bleed again is a memory or seeing someone tied to that situation again.

The passage of time does not guarantee healing.

We have the responsibility to help each other heal.

We can pray for one another, point others to The Healer, spend quality time with someone who is hurting, or give them needed space. And we must let them have time to heal.

We are all in need of healing, and it is God’s plan for His church to be the place where the hurting can find the healing that they need.

Will you stand in the gap for the hurting and be the person who helps others heal?

2 Principles of Spiritual Growth

Where do we grow from here?

This was the title of Rev. Victor Jackson’s Friday night message at Missouri Youth Convention a couple of weeks ago. At every youth convention, congress, or camp, there are always powerful messages from anointed preachers. Through each message, God ministers, and He moves. But there is always at least one message in particular that stands out. Everyone has their own “favorite” message that spoke to them in particular. Well, ever since the Friday night service of Missouri Youth Convention, I’ve been thinking about Bro. Jackson’s message on growth.

Growth has been a topic I’ve thought about often over the years as God has helped me navigate various life struggles and situations. So, for today’s post (which I know was supposed to go live yesterday—my apologies for the delay!), I wanted to share with you an extension of some of my notes from the message “Where Do We Grow From Here,” highlighting two principles of spiritual growth. Also, I do share post updates and topic ideas on my Instagram, so please be sure to go ahead and follow me there if you aren’t already so that you can find out when posts may be delayed or about upcoming topics. (You can find my Instagram account by clicking here.)

Without further delay, here are two principles of spiritual growth.

1. Don’t make a small start your identity.

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, right? Whether it’s in your ministry or personal relationship with God, you must begin small. In order to grow your prayer life, for example, you may begin by praying 15 minutes a day consistently and extending that over time. As Victor Jackson said, however, “It is a blessing to begin small. It is a curse to end small.”

We should all start out at small beginnings, but that isn’t where we should end up.

“If you’re not growing, you’re living outside of God’s purpose for your life.”

Victor Jackson

We are meant to be producing spiritual fruit. An apple tree will not produce apples if it stays in the state of a small seed or the size of a twig. When we grow, we become stronger and produce spiritual fruit. The righteous man experiences spiritual growth like what the beginning of Psalms describes when comparing the godly versus the ungodly:

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psalms 1:3 (KJV)

2. Don’t put limits on your elevation.

People often limit how you can grow. As soon as God starts using you more and growing your ministry, there are people who judge you. They place limits on how much a person can grow in his or her walk with God. We may even fall privy to the idea that we should only grow to a certain extent and no further so as to prevent others from believing we’re trying to make everything about ourselves or to try to prevent ourselves from becoming prideful. So, we stay small and claim it’s out of humility.

Humility is an essential attribute of a true Christian character, but Bro. Jackson pointed out that we are not meant to use our humility as an excuse to remain small and refuse to grow into what God wants us to be.

“Humility is not a destination; it is an attitude,” he explained. “If you don’t want to grow, your humility in remaining small just became disobedience. Obedience is a pathway. You’re supposed to be going and growing. Get to growing and knowing this is what the kingdom is.”

Indeed, spiritual growth is about letting God use you more in the ways that He wants to so that His Kingdom can grow through each of our efforts. That’s why we should teach more Bible studies, pray more, fast more, become more involved in ministry, and do all that He asks us to do. As we mature in Christ and grow, we become more well-rounded Christians and more effective in ministry and in the Kingdom.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (KJV)

Follow after God’s direction in your life, and you will grow. Spiritual growth is stunted when you stop putting effort into your ministry and walk with God. A lack of effort leads to a lack of growth, and a lack of growth leads to spiritual death.

“You were destined to grow. You were destined to go beyond.”

Victor Jackson

We must always be striving to do more for the Kingdom, more for God, more for others, more in our ministry, and more than we’ve done yesterday and ever before in order to reach this lost world and get closer to Jesus. We cannot forsake the importance of growing in every aspect of our lives.

We were destined to grow.

How to Study the Word More Thoroughly: The Re-Reading Method

Hey, BPR readers! As you’re reading this (that is, if you’re reading this on Friday, April 15, 2022), I am at Missouri Youth Convention with our church youth group where young people across the state of Missouri are worshipping God together, receiving the Holy Ghost, and hearing anointed messages from the Lord for their lives.  As such, today’s post is a bit simpler, but I hope you find it helpful!

Today, we’ll be diving into one Bible study method I’ve been using that’s helped me study the Word more thoroughly. One of our associate pastors at my church once mentioned the phrase “digging for diamonds” when mentioning Bible studying and how we ought to dig deep and truly search the Scriptures for understanding if we’re going to know the Word and draw closer to God.

I dubbed this Bible study method the “re-reading method.”

Read, then re-read, then re-read, and then re-read again.

That’s right. It seems like a pretty basic Bible study method. Just read the Word, right? Well, there’s a lot more to it than that. Last year, I read the Bible through, but I’ve always found it difficult to truly study the Word when I’m just trying to get through a certain number of chapters in a day so I can meet my goal.

So, this year, I’ve been reading through Romans, and I’m on my 3rd go-round now. The re-reading method involves at least 5 steps, but you can alter this to suit your style.

1) Read the book you’re focusing on straight through.

Yes, the first step is really that simple. Set a daily reading goal and read the book through within a week or a month.

2) Start from the beginning again, taking brief notes along the way this time.

The notes can be as simple as rephrasing a key verse in your own words that you want to highlight, jotting down a recurring theme or purpose, or noting how you can apply a verse to your life.

For example, when I went through Romans chapter 6 for the second time, I took these quick notes as I read verses 15-23: “Grace compels us to righteousness. The more God gives us grace and mercy, the more we want to live righteously for Him. As we grow in righteousness, it leads us to a greater desire to reflect His glory and Christ-like character.”

3) On the third read-through, take more time with each section of every chapter.

Write more thorough notes about what is going on in the chapter and how it relates to other verses, chapters, and concepts. I recommend using a concordance or the Apostolic Study Bible for this step as the footnotes and cross-references are great resources to study the Word more thoroughly.

When I read Romans chapter 6 for the third time, I took more detailed notes, referring to the footnotes in my study Bible for more information on the concepts of being dead to sin and living righteously.

4) On this read-through, study a collection of verses a day, whether it’s 4-8, and break down each verse.

I like to call this the word study. It’s a study of certain words that might stick out to you, for which you’ll need a Strong’s concordance or Bible dictionary to get to the root meaning of each word. On this step, you might write down how the original text’s definitions enrich and deepen our understanding of Scripture. By now, your notes will begin to build off each other from the previous read-throughs, resulting in a more layered Bible study approach.

5) Read through the book again using a related daily devotional or study book.

The final step in the re-reading method is optional, but it involves re-reading the book again but with a corresponding devotional or study book on the specific book you’re reading.

For example, I have a devotional from The Daily Grace Co on the book of Colossians that I’ve used to answer prompts about the verses as I read through the chapters. Reading someone else’s study of a particular book or passage in the Bible and using the prompts they give you can help you think more critically as you ponder how to respond to a prompt about applying a verse or concept to your daily life.

By the time you’ve finished with this method of Bible studying, you’ll have re-read the same book several times in a row, digging deeper into the Word each time and hopefully gaining a greater understanding of what God is telling us through His Word. If we are going to draw nearer to God and become who He wants us to be, we must study the Word – not merely read it each day to check off a box on a to-do list but really, truly, earnestly study the Word and search the Scriptures.

After all, Jesus is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

Psalm 119:11 (KJV)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

“Are You Invulnerable?”: A Brief Essay on Flaws and Expectations

Last month, I asked through a poll on my Instagram stories who might like to read more of my own creative work and hear more about their background and topics related to the content within my past writings. The response was a unanimous “yes,” and so for today’s post, I’m sharing with you all one of the short essays I wrote for a nonfiction writing class in 2020. I’ll be sharing a bit more in the near future about the story behind this particular short essay and delving into the topics of perfection, expectations, and imposter syndrome. Let me know in the comments or on Instagram what you think of this essay and what you think it means!

********

You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor.

Chinks. What does that mean? A weak point, a place of vulnerability, an opening for an attack from the enemy. A minor flaw, so says the online dictionary, or weakness in a plate of armor. A detrimental flaw. A special flaw. There’s an interesting phrase. A special flaw. It’s a special point of weakness that directs the enemy where to attack an otherwise invulnerable person. Are you invulnerable?

You’ve held a coat of chainmail—last fall in your history class on the Spanish Conquest. The professor brought in a bit of chainmail for everyone to handle so you all could know how hard the stuff must have been for Europeans to fight in and wear in the heat of Mexico over their wool clothes while holding heavy swords and lances, that is if they could get their hands on one. You put the chainmail on your arm and held it there for a minute. It was a bit like when you stuck your finger in the bowl of cold ice water that the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri had cooled to 28 degrees Fahrenheit—the temperature of the water the night the doomed ship sank. You held it there when you were about 14 to see how long you could last.

About 30 seconds.

You lasted with the chainmail on your arm about that long, too, because it started to get heavy, and your wrist started to twitch, and the classmate behind you wanted a chance to hold it, so you passed it on.

(Picture courtesy of Dr. John Chuchiak.)

It was a small section of a coat of chainmail—perhaps about 12 inches wide and long. Dr. Chuchiak lectured on how the Europeans manufactured it while they rested between battles. A blacksmith would take thousands of tiny metal or steel rings and carefully interlink them by hand. A single coat of chainmail could take months to finish if a skilled blacksmith worked 10-hour days.

You imagine the misery of knitting steel for a living in 90-degree weather with 60 percent humidity in the Yucatan Peninsula, trying to get a piece of chainmail done for a hotshot conquistador so he’s a little more likely to survive the arrows or stabbing spears of the Mayans than the footman who came over for gold and glory with only a helmet and a crossbow because that’s all he could afford and figured the gold he’d take from the natives would make him rich enough for 20 crossbows, 50 horses, and a land grant. You imagine the fever of smallpox getting to you while linking those steel rings and skipping a section right where the coat will slip over the conquistador’s left shoulder. If the Maya or Aztec crossbowmen spot the opening, the glory-seeking conquistador won’t last long. One small missing chink in his armor, and the obsidian arrow blade will tear through the chainmail as though it were linen instead of steel. A special weakness in an otherwise invulnerable person.

No.

You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor, but it’s not because you’re afraid they’ll attack you. You don’t want to let them down or let them see you’re just as human and weak as they are. You’d rather not cry under pressure or in front of others. You say you’re like a machine, doing what you’re supposed to.

But machines break down, and sooner or later, you’ll crack, too.

********

Stay tuned for more posts like this and a special study on depression and mental health coming in the near future. Be sure to follow along with the counterpart to this blog on my Instagram for more Apostolic lifestyle content!

Don’t forget to share your thoughts with me on this post in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

How to Overcome a Victim Mentality: A Guest Post by Kayla Carmichael

(Photo courtesy of Kayla Carmichael.)

The sad part is this: not everyone actually wants to be healed.

Some are okay remaining exactly who they are and the way that they are. A victim mentality has stolen more lives than I believe we would like to admit. It takes work to heal, it takes work to work through our own dysfunction, it takes work. Thankfully, we are not alone on our journey, but we do play a part in it.

There was a time in my life not too long ago that I was a victim to my own story, to what happened to me, to the pain that people had caused me. It is so easy to become a victim, and when we have been hurt, we often can have a longing to feel justified for being a victim. I mean, we are hurting, after all.

Does anyone see me? Does anyone care about me? Does anyone know that they are the reason why I am the way that I am?

I learned one morning as I began to speak to God about some things that had happened to me. I was just so sad. I simply did not understand why this happened to me. I then remember feeling this thought of, “Kayla, do you realize that you do not have to feel this way? You do not have to remain in this mindset. Do you realize this? It is time to close the doors to your past.”

Now, this does not mean that we are not to deal with what has happened to us accordingly. We do not dismiss our pain, but we release it to the Lord, and we become vulnerable in His presence. We decide that we are no longer going to be a victim of what has happened to us. Of what someone has done.

Victory is a choice.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. If I am not walking in victory, it is because I have decided not to walk in victory. However, walking in victory does not mean I am now “no longer hurting.” It simply means I am going to pick my head up and yield completely to the Lord as He heals me and as He restores me.

So, what will I decide? Will I decide to continue to worship my pain, or will I decide to worship my God? The God I choose to worship is the God who will determine my outcome.

Every. Single. Time.

You are a victor, not a victim.

********

Kayla Carmichael is an Apostolic writer and a great example to younger generations of what it means to love and live for God no matter what. Moving from Ohio, she came to Urshan College in Florrisant, Missouri and is now in her senior year, majoring in Christian ministry. Her goal is to pursue a master’s in counseling. Between devoting her time to school and church, Kayla is also writing her first book. Be sure to follow along with her insightful posts on Facebook and Instagram (@k.carm12)!

3 Keys to Endurance

You’re going to make it. Just hold on.

Things you tell yourself when the going gets tough and your resolve is wearing thin.

Sometimes, life can be just too much, you know? Your finances are tight, there’s not enough time in the day or the week to get things done, and your bones begin to ache from all the stress. Maybe you’re tired from work, family drama, or just life. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about all the negative things in the news. Maybe you’re tired of waiting for things to get better.

Sometimes, you just want to lie down, escape, forget about all the stress, struggles, and negative news. Sometimes, you wonder how you’ll get through this.

When will I get to the end of this situation?
When will things finally get better?
How does one endure to the end?

Whether it’s life issues you’re struggling with or anxiously awaiting the day when the Lord calls us home so we can finally be free from this sin-sick world, here are three keys that may help you in unlocking your ability to endure to the end.

1. Though you may be tired, maintain your walk with God every day.

When I was without a full-time job for over a year, the waiting was getting pretty tiresome. There’d be days where I’d feel more confident than others, but on the days where I felt the deadline getting closer and the fear of being jobless with no insurance setting in, I often just wanted to take a nap, watch or read something, or do ANYTHING to take my mind off my fears.

What I discovered was the only thing that gave me peace and strength to overcome that situation was when I met with God each day and dove deeper into the Word.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

Keeping up our prayer time then allows God to fill us with His peace that, in turn, keeps us going.

When you’re waiting for a blessing or just trying to get through a trial, perhaps the most important key to enduring that time is keeping up your relationship with God every day. It seems simple, but often our flesh needs simple reminders to get us back on the right track.

Often, my flesh wanted a quick and easy distraction, but those quick and easy distractions didn’t give me strength. They didn’t increase my faith in God. So, I studied Job. I read through the epistles. I made a point to set my phone aside and out of sight during my prayer time in order to get closer to God. And during that time, I grew. I developed my relationship with God.

Through prayer and reading the Word, we increase in the strength we need to endure.

2. Though you may feel overwhelmed, keep up your church attendance.

As my childhood pastor and lifelong spiritual leader Bishop Eddings has always said, “Church attendance is critical to survival.”

God never intended His church to be made up of scattered saints who never congregate together. It isn’t His Will for us to go to church only when we feel like it and to skip service and stay home when we “just can’t deal.”

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)

As we get closer to Christ’s return, we must be committed to attending church even more.

Sure, we’re human. I’ve certainly woken up on Sunday mornings and wished I could sleep in and not have to dress up and go anywhere that day. For many people, when they have a lot on their plate, attending church is the first thing they bump off their list.

But as the song says, “I need you, you need me. We’re all a part of God’s body.” We need each other to survive. When we fellowship with the saints of God, when we worship together, pray together, and glean from the Word together, we increase in strength.

Instead of skipping church when life has you overwhelmed, get to church early to pray with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes, going to church and fellowshipping with your church family can be the healthy distraction you need to get through a difficult situation.

3. Though you may want to isolate yourself, confide in a friend or mentor.

Trying to endure financial, personal, or spiritual struggles alone will deplete your strength and wear thin whatever resolve you have left.

We must talk to God and read His Word, yes, but God doesn’t want us to be without His church. We must keep up our church attendance and fellowship with the saints, yes, but even that may not be quite enough to help us endure a trial.

Tell someone you trust what you’re going through and ask them to help pray for you about it.

This doesn’t come easy to introverted people like me who prefer to “suffer in silence,” as they say. The longer I was without a job and the more rejection emails I received, the more desperate and miserable I became. Though I was keeping up my devotional time and attending church, I needed a bit more help.

Finally, I mustered up the courage to reach out to a trusted mentor and spiritual leader whose advise and kind words and prayers encouraged me. Suddenly, I had a new confidence and assurance that everything was going to be all right. I believed again that I was going to make it. I would endure.

Find someone–a friend or mentor–to support you. If you have no one else, you should definetly always go to your pastor for guidance and prayer, and even if you do have someone, don’t forsake the importance of seeking wise counsel from your pastor.

So, if you’re reading this and feeling weary of an internal struggle or external pressures, you will endure if you do not give up.

Pray. Study the Word. Go to church. Talk to someone.

Endurance requires daily commitment to resisting distraction and defeat.

So, then, how committed are you to enduring until the end?

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Matthew 24:13 (KJV)