Recovery

As many of you know, I struggle with depression. In fact, I have struggled with it for so long that I hardly know what life is like without it.

It’s become a part of me.

This year has been especially rough. I have not been my usual self. My friends began to worry about me and my family began to notice a change in me. Every day I thought about the futility of my life and felt completely alone. I overthought everything from jokes to quick glances. Everything somebody said or did was, in my depression soaked brain, a statement of their disdain towards me. I worried that every relationship I have ever had was just a superficial relationship out of mere obligation and pity. I had become susceptible to the idea that I was worthless.

That’s what it’s like to deal with depression. At least, that’s what it’s like for me. There is no trigger, nothing to indicate when it will hit me. Most of the time I am overcome with loneliness, doubt, and self loathing. I doubted my faith and felt abandoned by my God. That alone threw me even deeper into the pit of depression.

At least, that’s what it was like before.

4 weeks ago, I started attending therapy through the Counseling and Health Services offered by my university. 4 weeks ago I was in utter despair and lost in my depression to the point of thinking I would never see happiness and joy again. I spent more time collapsing in on myself than anything else, and I was pretty much at the end of my road. Remember, this was just 4 weeks ago- 4 sessions with my therapist.

I am not ashamed to admit that I need therapy or that I am depressed or that I don’t have all the answers. God created us to rely on Him. As a ministry major, I have always had this idea that I need to have my life together all of the time and never waver or struggle, and if I do I could certainly never show it. My job- my entire future- depends on helping others through this very same storm that has been plaguing me for so long. It is through that storm that I am growing into the minister that God intends for me to be.

4 weeks. 4 weeks ago I was broken, battered, bruised. I had no hope, no ambition, my entire life was full of apathy. Today, I am writing this with the joy of being able to say that I am in recovery.

This does not mean I am cured. I still have dark moments, dark days, and crippling thoughts. But I am once again able to experience hope, joy, ambition, life. I can finally see the end of this road I have been traveling for so long. I don’t know how much longer I will be struggling with this, but I am finally able to say that my struggle is turning into strength. It’s a long, arduous journey, and it’s one that we can’t travel alone.

If you are struggling with these same issues or any like it, please let me or someone else know. You can’t recover on your own. We weren’t created to do this alone. We are creatures of community.

It’s a long road. Don’t do it alone.

I love you guys. May God grant you all peace and joy. Thanks for your continuing prayers.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10

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The Bare Foundation: 5 Building Blocks of Faith

Struggling with faith is something that every Christian will go through at least once in their lives. It’s a difficult season of life to be in, and once there it is very difficult to come out of it. Most of the time there is no indication of when it will come or go, and it hits you like a train. I would be lying if I said I haven’t struggled with it in the past, especially when I felt I was fighting a losing battle with depression. But here’s the thing: It’s normal.

As a matter of fact, I would say that it is an important part of growing in your faith. When we are children (whether literal children or children in our new lives as Christians), we have a faith that is built on what others have told us to be true. This isn’t inherently bad, it just means that we need to at some point own our faith. At some point, we have to move on from what everyone else is telling us and come to our own conclusions about the God that we love and believe in. More times than not, that requires a crisis of faith, a return to the Bare Foundation on which our faith is essentially built.

So, for those of you who are currently struggling with a crisis of faith, I thought I would share some of the aspects of my Bare Foundation. These were put into words by a friend of mine that has also struggled with this, and I agree 100% with the statements made. So here we go.

1. The Universe had to be created by some sort of intelligent being… it just doesn’t make sense otherwise.
I know that there is a lot of argument between the Creationists, the Evolutionary Theorists, the Big Bang believers, and so on. The argument is often made that it takes too much faith to believe that there was an intelligence behind the creation of the universe. To me, however, it seems that there would have to have been so many random coincidences for the creation to have happened the way that it did without someone or something guiding it along. To believe that all of those occurrences just happened to lead to the creation of life is above and beyond the faith required to believe that an intelligent being created the universe. I am choosing to believe the more logical one.

2. At the very least, the Bible is a collection of stories about the Israelites and their God.
The stories within the Bible were written by many different people from many different walks of life and time periods. It wasn’t readily available for just anyone to read what had already been written to check for consistency. With that being said, the common themes throughout the Bible are staggering. Many things that are prophesied in the Old Testament come into being in the New Testament, and the stories that are repeated in the New Testament are repeated very consistently. Not to mention, the stories and histories within the Bible are consistent with the historical context of the time period in which they were written. The stories about the people known as the Israelites and their God are eerily similar to us today. Again, too much of a coincidence to ignore.

3. The stories about Jesus in the Bible can’t be a scandal… there were too many people involved.
The Watergate scandal only had like 5 people involved… and it still managed to be blown open within a matter of months. There were thousands of people that witnessed Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. If any of it was false, somebody would have noticed and made a huge deal of it, effectively destroying the credibility of the entire book. Considering no such evidence exists, there is nothing to indicate that these stories are false. We must believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life free of sin, was crucified, dead, buried, and rose again from the dead 3 years later.

4. If we are to say that the stories of Jesus are true, then we come to the conclusion that he loved humanity.
Let’s be honest. If any of us were told that we were going to be killed for something that every single person on Earth has done except us, and it would completely absolve the others of their debts, we would most likely run the other direction. Jesus could have very easily refused to be crucified for the sins of everyone but his own. The fact that he did (which we established already) speaks volumes about the amount that he loves humanity. To sacrifice yourself for the benefit of everyone else through one of the most torturous deaths known to man takes an unearthly love. A love from God Himself.

5. Jesus is fully God and fully man, so therefore God must love us that much as well.
Again, we are relying on the idea that everything the Bible says about Jesus is true. With that being established, we can’t argue that Jesus is the Son of God, in fact the incarnation of God Himself while still being completely human (yeah, very difficult to process, but we can’t understand everything). Since Jesus was so unconditionally loving that he endured death for us, we can say that God is equally loving. This love is impossible for us to comprehend, and to experience it is inexplicable.

There is still a lot of faith required for an unwavering faith in God and his unconditional love for us. However, to me, there is nothing wrong with that. If God were to give us all of the answers, we wouldn’t need to rely on Him. Whatever love we would have for Him would be an obligatory love that comes from an undeniable fact. If we didn’t have faith, our love wouldn’t be genuine. Life with genuine love is so much more fulfilling, and therefore life with faith is fulfilling.

I don’t have all the answers, but I hope that this can help some of you come back to your Bare Foundation. It’s on that foundation that God will build an amazing life of faith.

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” -Romans 1:17 NIV 

Confessions of a Ministry Major

As I have said in many of my previous posts, I am a Pastoral Ministries major at Olivet Nazarene University. Basically, I am getting a 4 year degree that is training me to be a pastor. One of the things that keeps coming up in this “training” is the importance of vulnerability. If I am open, others will feel comfortable being open as well. So here it goes.

I am depressed.

You read that right. I have struggled with depression for years now, and I was too afraid to tell anybody. I was afraid that people would doubt my faith, call me a fake, or judge me as being too emotional. I was afraid to be me. However, in light of recent events, I have decided that my story is just that: my story. It’s my story of how God has worked, and continues to work, in and through me. And maybe my story can help someone else come to grips with their story- and see God in it.

Before I go any further, I would like to say a little bit about depression. It’s not (most of the time) a result of any one occurrence or group of occurrences. It’s not something someone did or didn’t do. From the outside, my life is pretty great. My parents are awesome, my grandparents are awesome, I have the most amazing friend group both at school and at home, I go to the most amazing university ever established, and God is blessing me in more ways than I can count. It seems that I have no reason to be depressed, right? Wrong. Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s just like the flu, or a stomach virus, except instead of it messing with my body, it’s messing with my brain. I am on medication for it and participate in therapy, so I am, with the help of God and my awesome university counseling services, working on it, and I am getting better. Seeking help is the best thing I could have ever done for myself.

I believe in God. I believe in His love and His grace, and these things are central to my life. That doesn’t mean I can’t be depressed. Being depressed doesn’t make me a bad person, or even a bad Christian. Just because I am struggling with something doesn’t mean that I am ignoring God or putting Him off to the side. It just means that I am not perfect. God is still working on me. I am trusting that this storm (long though it may be) will someday come to a close, and as a result, I will be stronger both in my faith and in my mentality because of it. I will gain an understanding of the struggles that those around me face. God will make blessings out of burdens (excuse the cliche).

One more thing: I think I speak for all of those that are (or will sometime in the future) experiencing depression when I say this. Don’t treat me any differently. There will be times that I seem distant, or that I seem down. You can ask me what’s wrong, and if I want to talk about it I will. But don’t change how you see me just because of this. Just be normal. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re sarcastic, be sarcastic (Confession #2: I love sarcasm but I am terrible at it). I am just battling a sickness right now, and I know that God will carry me through it. I love God, I love my family, and I love my life. None of that has changed or will ever change. This is just a moment of weakness, and I am sharing it with the hope that it will help someone else.

Thanks for understanding, you guys. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. My life is officially an open book. Praise God for everything I am learning.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.“
-John 16:33