Most of us have lost loved ones or lost relationships once very valuable to us. Many have suffered financial hardship or emotional or physical pain. And there are those who are in a season of waiting for an answered prayer or who may be going through a spiritual valley. It’s hard to feel thankful sometimes when everything seems to be falling apart. When our thoughts and feelings dwell on our circumstances and on what seems impossible, we can lose a spirit of thankfulness. So, how do we maintain it or get it back?
What is thanksgiving, after all? It is the expression of gratitude and showing appreciation. And what is praise? Showing admiration or great approval. When we offer praise to God, we tend to move into a spirit of thanksgiving. We praise Him for what He’s done. We praise Him for who He is. Praise and worship are the keys to maintaining a spirit of thanksgiving.
Job lost everything but still declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15a KJV). Job’s children were killed, and yet he could still bless the name of the Lord (see Job 1). In his season of loss, Job recognized the sovereignty of God.
When you focus on who God is instead of your circumstances, you will find that praise comes naturally. How can we not praise God for all He’s done, for who He is? Because no matter what we may go through, nothing changes that He is worthy, that He is faithful, that He loves us, and that He is good.
Our circumstances change; He does not. He remains.
There have been moments in my life in which I lost so much. Perhaps like many of you, I’ve lost loved ones and relationships. And I’ve dealt with anger, hurt, sadness, loneliness, and all the various emotions that accompany seasons of grief, depression, and waiting. The words “just be thankful for what you have” are not easy to hear or adapt to your life when you can hardly get out of bed in the morning and when grief muddles your thoughts and leaves you feeling sicker by the day. But as someone who’s gone through some of those seasons, I promise you that turning your focus from what you’re going through to who God is will bring some joy back into your life. It will allow you to feel more thankful because you’re no longer putting your focus on the natural but on the supernatural. You’re no longer putting your focus on the impossible but on the one who makes things possible.
And God is always a good God, no matter how trying times become. He’s never left me, and He never will.
I recently came across a song (linked here) that speaks so much to experiences I’ve had, and it demonstrates the faithfulness of God. Just look at the verses below:
“I have seen a lot of things, and I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve seen people come and go. I’ve been through a lot of changes. One thing I can always say, You’ve been here every step of the way. I have heard a lot said and sometimes believed the wrong things. I’ve made choices I regret, and I’ve doubted Your mercy. One thing I can always say, You’ve been here every step of the way. After all these years, You’re still good to me.”
After everything I’ve been through, God is still with me. After the things we’ve all endured these past few years, God is still present with us. When we remind ourselves of how good He is every day, we can maintain a spirit of praise and thanksgiving even through hard times.
The circumstances in your life may seem to grow worse or more complicated year after year, but hold to the promises in His Word. He will never leave us, He will never fail, He works all things for our good, His promises are “yes” and “amen,” He will provide for all our needs, and His mercies are new every morning.
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.
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:
Disinterest in normal activities
Decreased sense of self-worth
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.
Coon Sr., Carlton L. Light in a Dark Place: Encountering Depression. 2019.
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.
Missouri Youth Camp ended last week, but I’m still thinking about the powerful services we had. In every service, there was a heavy spirit of expectancy, depth in every message, and an outpouring of the Holy Ghost in every altar call. It was without a doubt one of the most incredible weeks I have experienced. Mike McGurk, the morning speaker, taught one message in particular that detailed a few tips that, if applied, can help each person (and each young person, especially) truly thrive in the kingdom of God. For today’s post, we’re going to go over these tips again.
Don’t keep the things you’re struggling with to yourself. This one’s actually hard for those like me who prefer to “suffer in silence.” It’s the noble, mature, strong thing to do, we tell ourselves. But actually, keeping deep struggles to yourself makes you more vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and makes it harder to overcome those struggles.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13 (KJV)
Talking to a trusted spiritual leader, such as your pastor or youth pastor, about something you’re struggling with gives you a source of support and guidance. Openness and honesty are underrated qualities in any relationship. How are you to develop a working relationship of trust and transparency with your leaders or even colleagues or friends if you do not let them in if something is going wrong? The more you keep things to yourself, the more time you give to the devil to mess with your mind and bring confusion.
Bro. Mike McGurk spoke of self-destruction. If you keep things to yourself, then the lies of the devil can cause you to break down and self-destruct. There is strength in going to a trusted spiritual leader like your pastor with your personal struggles with sin or an emotional or spiritual issue.
You do not have to be perfect, for as we know, there is none perfect save for God.
We are incapable of perfection, and your pastor knows this. Because of our human nature and constant struggles with our flesh, we will always need encouragement, correction, independence, and guidance. We need encouragement for our self-esteem, correction to overcome our weakness and mistakes, independence to allow us to make our own decisions, and guidance to lead us in the right direction.
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (KJV)
You’ve heard the saying that no person is an island. Learn to be transparent and trust your pastor to help you and pray for you when you’re struggling.
Be careful with the people and things that you allow to influence your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You’re heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” and the fact that Jesus ate with the sinners and publicans. This is true. However, Jesus called us to be separate from this world.
As another common saying goes, we are in the world but should not be of the world, meaning that while we are in the world, we should do the things we must to survive, build relationship, families, careers, etcetera, but we should not conform to the lifestyles and beliefs of the world. Bro. McGurk explained in his message that when it comes to those you may be around at work or at school who live like the world, you should love them and eat with them, but do not live like them or let them influence how you live. For example, if you’re out to lunch with your coworkers, but they talk about going out later to drink and party, don’t let their lifestyle choices influence yours. The sign of a confident Apostolic Christian is one who influences their friends and coworkers and draws them toward God, not one whose friends and coworkers draw them away from God.
There is one saying my Bishop used to teach about that some might take issue with, but I’ll mention it here and then explain: if you can’t change your friends, change your friends.
If the people you hang around are becoming negative influences in your life, then you should not spend time around them anymore. For example, if you have a teenage son and he starts hanging around kids who do drugs behind the school every day, you would want your son to stop hanging around those kids. That doesn’t mean he should be rude to them, condemn them, yell at them, or throw the Bible at them. It does mean he should set healthy boundaries in his life so that he can maintain a strong walk with God and show others that he is committed to living for God and not like the world. Having strong principles, convictions, and morals is a good thing, not something anyone should be ashamed of.
Lot allowed his surroundings to influence him, and it led to his wife’s demise.
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.”
Genesis 13:10-13 (KJV)
The appearance of the land was pleasing to Lot, and so he allowed what pleased his eyes to influence his actions. He pitched his tent toward a place that was filled with wickedness. Much can be said and written just from this account in Genesis (and indeed much already has), but just six chapters later, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with Lot barely escaping with his daughters. His wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Most of us know this story, but its message will forever ring true.
Want to know the direction your life is taking? Look at the things you allow to influence you.
The problem with influence is appetite. What you consume is what you put on display through your words, actions, and thoughts. In order to walk with God, you must change your appetite so that the things of the world – entertainment, personalities, trends, money, attention, etcetera – no longer influence you.
If you pursue God and allow the things of God to influence you, then you will thrive in His Kingdom. This point goes back to the previous point about influence. Your life will go in the direction of the things you pursue. If you pursue fame and attention and money, then your life will be filled with self-absorption and materialism. Pursuing God means putting God and a godly lifestyle above everything else.
You should get a job. You should make an income. You should try to have and raise a godly family, but those things become idols when you pursue them above God. So, how do you pursue God?
Read the Word. After all, the Word is God (see John 1:1). The Bible is His Living Word, and if we want to get to know Him more, we should read it every day. Don’t just read it, though. Study the Word. Pray the Word. And while you read the Word, journal. I have a journal set aside for Bible journaling, and when I open up the Word to begin my study time, I have the journal in one hand and the Bible in the other to write down thoughts, revelations, or specific verses while I’m reading. This is a pretty common and simple concept, but it is vital to understanding His Word more and committing key scriptures and biblical principles to memory.
When you pursue God, He will open up His Word to you and welcome you into a deeper relationship with Him.
“Draw night to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
James 4:8 (KJV)
We exist to worship our Creator, have a relationship with Him, and reach the lost. When we make living for God and growing His kingdom our purpose and top priority in life, then we will be too busy to become enamored with the distractions of the world. We will struggle with our flesh every day, but there are things we can do to become purpose-driven in the kingdom.
Be involved in your church. Help with the media team. Be part of the music team. Teach Sunday or Wednesday school. Clean the church. Contribute to your church’s social media page by taking pictures. Help in the kitchen. Go to outreach functions. Invite your friends and coworkers to church and special events. Go to special events yourself rather than skipping them because it’s your Friday night. Teach Bible studies. (Lord knows, we should all be doing more, especially on that last one, including yours truly.)
Whatever it is, be active in your church and be active in the kingdom of God. We find our identity in Christ, and when we make His mission ours, then our purpose will become clear.
Each of these four concepts is essential to thriving and growing in God’s kingdom. So, in order for you to apply these to your life, here are some questions you might ask:
Out of these four points (transparency, influence, pursuit, purpose), is there one or more that are lacking in my life?
What am I doing or what can I do to address this issue?
You’re going to make mistakes. God doesn’t hate you for that.
This is what I should have told myself years ago when I was starting out in college.
It was the spring semester of 2016, and I was taking a mix of online and seated classes at a community college while working part-time as a tutor at the writing center. One of my online classes was a world history course with my history professor from the previous semester—Mr. Z we called him. He was the fun, quirky professor always eager to chat with his students. I met with him multiple times to discuss my papers and upcoming exams, and during one particular meeting, we discussed a paper I was writing for another history class that he was helping me perfect.
As I settled into my seat across from him, I gazed in horror at his marked-up version of my draft on his desk. How could I—I have made that many errors?! Mr. Z sensed my panic and quickly explained.
“Relax, it’s not terrible,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m pushing you harder because I know you’re at the level where you can handle it.”
It wasn’t much of a comfort. I wanted my work to be near-flawless, and he knew that. I always wanted to know all the answers, and if I didn’t, I didn’t want anyone else to know it. When I explained my (admittedly) flawed mindset, Mr. Z said something to me that I’ve never forgotten.
He said, “You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor.”
“No, I don’t!” I said (a bit surprised that he hit the nail dead center). You see, I believed that if people saw the chinks in my armor, it meant they would see me as weak, vulnerable, incapable—human.
Sometimes, you just don’t want to be that real with people. You’d rather just go through life with no one knowing anything about what you’re going through or how you feel deep down. That way, when you mess up, there’ll be no one to judge you and no one to know that you don’t always make the right choices.
Making mistakes is for weak people, I told myself, and weakness is wrong.
Yes, weak people make mistakes, but as humans, we are all weak by nature, having an imperfect and sinful nature by default. Weakness isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s just natural. That’s why we need God. Through Him, we receive strength to overcome our flaws. What I failed to understand then was that it is OKAY to admit that you’ve made a mistake. You are only human, and God doesn’t punish you for that.
Our sinful nature and inclination to make mistakes doesn’t give us license to make whatever mistakes we want just because, but it does mean that our mistakes should come as no surprise to ourselves. God isn’t surprised that we fall and fail and make bad choices, and He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. There is none perfect but Him. He doesn’t beat us up when we make a bad choice, and neither should we condemn ourselves.
No matter how many times we mess up, if we truly repent and seek forgiveness, then God is faithful to forgive us of our sins (see 1 John 1:9).
When you realize that God’s grace extends to you no matter how many mistakes you make, then you’ll be able to extend that same grace to others.
It was when I learned how to release the self-condemnation that I felt for the mistakes I’d made that it was easier to forgive others for the things they’d done wrong. They were only human like me, after all. I could see my own flaws, my own imperfection in others and knew that if God didn’t hold my mistakes against me, then I shouldn’t hold others’ mistakes against them.
If you don’t forgive yourself, how can you truly forgive others?
You are not perfect. You will continue to make mistakes. But guess what?
It’s not the end of the world if you do. God’s grace is sufficient to cover your sins (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), and His strength is more than enough to help you overcome your weaknesses.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the tempation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)
There is a way to escape the consequences of our weak nature—salvation in the name of Jesus and doing our absolute best to live as He has instructed us to live. God created us to be imperfect beings in need of our perfect Creator.
Lean into that.
Give your flaws, mistakes, and all your baggage up to Him.
It’s okay if you fail. Just remember that God never fails.
It’s okay that you’re not perfect and what you do isn’t perfect. Just remember that His love is perfect.
If you fully surrender to God and trust Him with all you have and all you’ve done, He will take care of you, and you’ll be closer to Him than you were before.
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.
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.
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!
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?
Life is made up of many unexpected moments—some good, some bad. Somehow, it’s often the bad ones that have a lasting impact on our lives, that mold who we become and shape how we think.
In September of 2013, my diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes was unexpected. It shocked my family and I since no one in my immediate family has it. I was numb at first. Not upset or sad. I didn’t cry or get frustrated. I went along with the doctor’s orders and cautiously trudged through each day afterwards.
What does one do when the unexpected comes?
A wave of emotion didn’t hit me until two months later when I sat by my bed, worrying about what my life would be like now. Diabetes is a lifelong disease with no cure. I thought of all the complications one could have from Type 1 diabetes, of all the frustrations that might come with traveling with this disease. And I so desperately wanted to travel. And suddenly I was sad, frustrated, overwhelmed. I was afraid of returning to college. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to have the future I wanted. Then, at one youth prayer meeting the following spring, God spoke a word through one of our young ladies that I have never forgotten.
“Keep the momentum going. I am everything you will ever need.”
Maybe God spoke to others that night, but I knew He had also meant that for me. In that moment, I knew I would be alright so long as I kept moving forward in my relationship with Him. He even gave me the answer to how I would get through this trial in my life. God would be everything I would ever need.
My comfort. My peace. My strength.
Whatever I needed, He would be that for me.
The only thing that has ever gotten me through each unexpected moment in my life has been my relationship with God. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s my personal walk with Him. It’s comprised of my experiences talking to Him, those moments I’ve cried and gotten upset, those moments He’s comforted me, those moments He’s given me the strength to carry on, those moments He’s given me revelation after revelation of what it means to be His child and servant and what it means to receive His unconditional love and mercy.
It’s when the unexpected comes that you realize you won’t be able to make it on your parents’ relationship with God or your pastor’s relationship with God. It’s when you realize that you have to make sure your own personal relationship with God is solid if you are going to get through whatever situation you’re in and come out of it stronger.
I’m sure, dear reader, that there have been unexpected moments in your life, and there may be many more—some good, some bad. But it is our responsibility to get closer to God now—not tomorrow or next year—but now to make sure that we’re always prepared for the unexpected. If our daily walk with God is strong and consistent, then we are already prepared for whatever good or bad situation may come our way.
As long as our focus is on Him, and as long as we keep the momentum going, then in the presence of our Creator, we will find everything we’ll ever need to make it through when the unexpected comes.