Monday, April 18, 2011
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
Have you ever felt that when you pray that God picks up but then puts you on hold. Or that all you get is His voice mail. Have you ever felt alone or abandoned by God?
When we wake up in the morning sometimes we don’t want to get out of bed. I’m not talking about when you have a hang over or stayed up to late. I’m talking about the morning when you wake up and don’t want to deal with family. When you don’t want to go to work. The kind of morning when you just want to turn on your side and go back to sleep.
I can’t speak for all of you but I know I have. I’ve had those feelings.
Its called depression.
You might be thinking, “hold on a second, a true blue, dyed in wool Christian, isn’t supposed to get depressed.”
Well, being a Christians doesn’t make us immune to our moods going up and down. It’s part of going through life. We can’t help but have ups and downs. Its part of being human
I was at a pretty low point in my life and someone told me that I really loved the Lord and had faith that I shouldn’t feel depressed. I shouldn’t be sad. This person told me, “There’s no depression in the Bible,” so turn that frown upside down.
Well, first I wanted to punch the person in the face. I got over that and got to thinking.
There is depression in the bible. There’s a lot of it.
Moses begged God to kill him. Jesus became so sorrowful and suffered excruciating agony before his arrest. He wept before he raised Lazarus from the dead.
If you are human, if you have blood in your viens and skin on your bones, your moods are going to go up and down. We’re gonna have bad day and we’re gonna have good days. Those days may even drag into weeks or months sometimes.
There have been times in my life when I could only hope that God was listening to my beggings and pleadings. That he was hearing my calls for help.
Depression can be a like a fog that moves in slowly or hits us all of the sudden.
Sometimes the fog that hits us all of the sudden the loss of a husband, wife. A son,or daughter. A mother or father. When we face these losses we’re forced to confront the deepest of truths and the darkest of our fears. That’s when the fog of depression rolls in.
We may even at times wish to call out my God my God why have you forsaken me.
In the Bible there is a story about a prophet named Elijah, a queen named Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal:
A foreign queen, Jezebel, had married Ahab, the king of Israel. She brought with her hundreds of prophets of Baal. Baal was a pagan god.
When she arrived in Israel, she tried to establish a mission there and was doing a good job of it. Jezebel was a manipulative, mean, devilish woman. Ahab was a weak king, and things were not working very well for him or Israel or the God of Israel.
So Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest. It was a winner-take-all contest. They went to Mount Carmel and built two altars, one to Baal and one to Jehovah. The rules were that the prophets of Baal would sacrifice the bull and do their thing, and then Elijah would do the same on the altar to Jehovah. The god who brought the fire to the altar would be the god that Israel would worship.
So the 450 pagan preachers did their thing -- they beat their drums, they prayed, they danced, they called on Baal, but nothing happened; and, finally, they gave up. Then it was Elijah's turn. He put the sacrifice on the altar and poured buckets of water over it to demonstrate his confidence in God's power. He prayed and God sent the fire that consumed the sacrifice. Jehovah was obviously the victor. Then he killed the 450 priests of Baal. When Jezebel received word of this, she was furious and sent word to Elijah that she would have someone do the same to him.
Now here was a man who had scored the greatest victory of his life. He had called down fire, embarrassed the opposition, and had 450 pagan priests killed. He was riding high, and all of a sudden, one word from a defiant queen sent chills up and down his spine. So what did he do? He started running because he was afraid of Jezebel. This happened in northern Israel, and he ran past Jezreel and got all the way to Beersheba to the south. And he was so exhausted that he collapsed.
Then God sent an angel to him in the night. The angel said, "Arise and eat." The angel said that to him twice and then fed him. Elijah got up, took care of his body, and then he was instructed to go down to Mount Sinai, about another 150 miles. When he arrived there, he still wasn't relieved of his fear and depression. He stood in the mouth of the cave and watched the lightning and the storms. God wasn't there, he determined. Then he heard God in a still, small voice say, "Go back to Israel by the way of Damascus. Anoint Elisha to follow you. There are 7,000 people waiting for you to come. They are the people of God who have remained faithful."
I have told you the story, painting a verbal canvas for you. Now let's pull out the three pegs to hang the lesson on. This will help us when the fog of depression rolls in.
Remember, the first thing God said to Elijah was "get up." In a sense, take care of yourself. I will guarantee you this: If you want to be depressed, the first step on the road to depression is to let your body get depleted.
Elijah had neglected to take care of himself physically and this had resulted in an emotional collapse. Body and soul are connected as one, and when we neglect self-care, the fog rolls in.
The body must be cared for in order to prevent the fog of depression from overtaking us. So, get up and take care of yourself: Eat, sleep and exercise.
Next Elijah, standing in the mouth of the cave at Sinai, realized that God spoke in the still small voice - not the earthquake - wind and fire. And he began to reestablish his relationship with God. This prevented the "fog" from overtaking him. So, look up. God loves us, even when dark moods overtake us and God is still speaking quietly to us.
Finally, God makes it clear to Elijah that he was not alone. Dark moods, depression, the "fog" make us feel that we are one against the world.
One night I dreamed a dream.
I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.
When the last scene of my life shot before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand. There was only one set of footprints. I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life. This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.
"Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way. But I'm aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don't understand why, when I need You most, You leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you."
Elijah is reminded by God that there are 7,000 in Israel who are still loyal to their God, and he is to link up with them. When the dark moods overtake us, we need other people.
Our faith is a plural faith. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together, I'll be with them." It is not a singular faith as reflected in the country-western song "Me and Jesus, We'll Get By." We are not complete without our Christian family. To beat away the "fog," we must link up.
Elijah gives us a clear path to surviving when the "fog" that descends on us: Get up, look up, link up.
And let's remember that we can act our way into a new way of feeling easier than we can feel our way into a new way of acting.