Monday, September 21, 2020

Hymns and Transcendence

 I’m thankful we get to worship in person at our church again. The months we couldn’t were hard, I’ve already written about that elsewhere. Our pastor preached yesterday morning from Ephesians and he talked about what a privilege we have to meet corporately for worship and how incredibly special that is.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I shared in my last post a good bit about how much I appreciate being able to meet together with my church family and how much richer, deeper, and more intense our worship is when we multiply it together.

 

What I wanted to focus on in this post though, is the sermon our pastor preached last night. Yes, we get to have Sunday evening services again! I have missed those so much! Last night our pastor preached on Why We Sing Hymns, and I’ll link the message here:

 

 



I deeply appreciated what he said about the transcendence of what we do when we gather together to worship and how important it is that we sing songs that are true, songs that are thoughtful, songs that are teaching and increasing our understanding of theology, and sing different songs.  What we do in the church transcends culture and transcends preferences and leads us to the throne of God. Music helps us in this when it is true.  As Pastor Jesse said, “God is only truly worshiped when we sing true things about Him.” This resonated with me – I have been bothered for years by worship music that contains error, and I’m thankful for careful worship leaders who choose the songs we sing thoughtfully and purposefully. 

 

As I listened to the sermon, I was thinking about how  amazed and humbled I am when I look back over my life at how God has constantly spared me and rescued me from error and shallow thinking that permeates much of the evangelical subculture. He has kept me through the years when confronted with things that just didn’t sound right, even when I didn’t have the maturity yet to quite know why. He instilled in me a love for His word, and from early days, a love for hymns.  

 

When I was young my family had a Baptist Hymnal on the piano, and that was a well-worn “go-to” for me when I was depressed, sad, lonely, bored, etc.  I would pull out the hymnal and play though them and my mood would lift as my heart was drawn to the truths I was singing. I spent much time leafing through that hymnal, and even now many of those songs are a source of deep comfort for me.  

 

What I realized last night is that God graciously used those hours spent singing through the hymnal to drill truth deep into my heart, when I didn’t even realize it.   He used that heart level truth to preserve me when things that weren’t quite right were preached or told me by Christian friends or when I stumbled across them in the evangelical subculture. The reason things seemed off was because they didn’t mesh with the truths I’d hidden in my heart through the doctrines I’d spent my lifetime singing.  It gave me a longing for more than shallow sentimentality in my Christian thought life, and taught me a deep longing for the transcendent.  These songs are rich because they bond believers together with shared experience and language.  We resonate with them because they are true, and true for all believers together. I’m grateful for that heritage.  

 

This allows me to love the old hymns and to also love newer hymns that are still being written today – those that sing the transcendent truths of the gospel and God’s word, the doctrines that join together all believers and transcends cultures and languages.  We long for rich, deep theology in our songs, not shallow sentimentality. We need songs and hymns that teach us to look outward from ourselves and look up to our Savior. We need the deeper truths driven into our hearts that satisfy us and join us together in ways that a steady diet of only shallow repeated choruses just cannot do. 


Happy Monday, still thinking on the joys of Sunday today.

 

 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Holy Space and Holy Time: A Few Thoughts After Reading "The Holiness of God"

I just finished reading The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. This is not the first time I’ve read it, but it is one I find it is beneficial to revisit every so often, and it’s a book I highly recommend.  As he says in the book, “People in awe never complain that church is boring.” Neither will they find taking time to think deeply about God’s holiness boring. 


I am not going to write a full review, but I did have some thoughts I wanted to share that I pondered as I was reading the last chapter today, which is titled, “Holy Space and Holy Time.”  First, some quotes from that last chapter: 


“The consecration of sacred space does not end with the close of the Old Testament. It is rooted and grounded in the act of creation itself, and something profoundly important to the human spirit is lost when it is neglected.”


“Each Sabbath day, believers observe sacred time in the context of worship. It is the keeping holy of the Sabbath day that marks the regular sacred time for the Christian. The worship service is a marking of a special liturgical time.”


“In sacred space and sacred time Christians find the presence of the holy. The bars that seek to shut out the transcendent are shattered, and the present time becomes defined by the intrusion of the holy. When we erect barriers to these intrusions, dikes to keep them from flooding our souls, we exchange the holy for the profane and rob both God of His glory and ourselves of His grace.”


Here’s what I got to thinking about. During the time when our church could not meet because of the COVID restrictions, we were blessed to be able to have the option to stream the service online.  I am so thankful for the technology that allowed us to do this and for the care of our pastors, elders, and teachers who did their best to stay connected with the church family during that time. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best we could do at the time. I understand the necessity for that time, and I completely understand the necessity for those who are at greater risk to continue to use that option now that we are able to cautiously and in a socially distanced way begin to meet together again physically. So, please don’t take what I’m about to say wrongly. Also, PLEASE do not come at me with the argument, “the church is not the building.” Seriously, that is NOT what I’m about to say, so don’t hear that, and don’t come at me with it. I got SO, SO tired of reading that on social media.  It MISSES THE POINT of what those of us who were sad about not meeting together were trying to express. 


During the time when we only had the online version of worship services, our family did our best to make that time special.  We got up on time, got dressed, and set that time aside to watch and engage as best we could with the service on screen.   But there was just something missing.  It is just not the same. I couldn’t adequately describe what made it so very different, exactly, but this last chapter of The Holiness of God and the discussion of sacred space spoke to me deeply in light of what we’ve just gone through. That is what is missing. There is something profound  and indescribably powerful about physically meeting together with the church that is deeper than merely keeping the elements of the service but watching on a disembodied screen. No, the church is not the building, it’s not that the bricks and mortar of the building itself are inherently sacred, but it is what we do when we gather there that makes it sacred space. And of course, even worshipping by screen when that’s the only option we have can be sacred, too, but the church is the people - specifically the people gathered together. And yes, when we neglect that setting aside of sacred time to worship together, there IS something profoundly important to the human spirit that is lost. Though I understand and support why we had to forego the gathering for a time, we DID miss something profound. The first Sunday we got to go back, even with masks and social distancing and much fewer people in the building, it was like a breath of fresh air and that profound something that we have when we gather together in that set apart, sacred time and space was rich. The holy just felt nearer.


No matter how much we tried to make the online Sundays sacred, the profane was somehow just still so near. The distractions were many, and it was just not the same.  


There is something deep and profound that we gain when we are able to gather together and sense the energy of our church family all worshipping Jesus together.  There is something deeply sacred that points us to our holy God in a way that we lose when we are denied the opportunity to set aside time and space for the sacred.  We are embodied people and we experience this life with our physical bodies. There is just something other about setting aside time and space to focus our attention together on the Holy and sacred.  We are bombarded all week with the temporal and profane, we need that set apart space and time to put away those distractions and be reminded physically and through our senses with singing and praying and hearing the Word preached to focus our attention on our Savior. 


I’m not at all sure I adequately expressed what I’m pondering in this post. Boiled down, I am reminded to think carefully and prepare myself before I go to worship and remember that we are on holy ground because we are gathering to worship a holy God. I am greatly looking forward to getting to meet with my church family tomorrow morning, even if we have to wear masks and sit apart to make it happen. How thankful I am for the grace of God that sustained us during the months we had to be apart, and how very thankful I am now that we can meet together again. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Mysterious Power of Music

Every once in a while I’m reminded how mysteriously powerful music can be. Whether it’s hearing an instrumental piece of music that gives you chills and makes you just want to sit and submerse yourself in the music to enjoy a glorious music moment, or maybe it is a song that comes on and immediately transports you to another time in your life, complete with all the emotions and senses that go with those memories, music has a deep and rich power that is hard to describe.  I think God gave us a wonderful gift in music, and I think music must be special to Him, too. Think about it, the entire book of Psalms is a song book. There is music and singing throughout the Bible. There is even music and singing in Heaven, can you imagine how glorious it must be? (Revelation 5:9-10, for example) 

Yesterday I found myself alone in my car, for one very rare instance these days, and I had my playlist going. A song came on that brought me right back to the early ’80’s and a flood of emotions filled my car - the awkwardness of junior high, the expectation and hope of youth, the joys of driving to the beach with friends, the painfulness of feeling lonely and awkward and ignored, the joys of cherished friendships, and all kinds of other wordless emotions all wrapped up in a Chicago song. Followed by other songs, all with their own beautiful, jumbled, complex mix of memories and emotions. 

Then this morning, I was listening to another playlist and several songs in a row came on that brought back vividly that year in Ohio, especially the ray of light our membership at Parkside Church was in that otherwise dark and lonely year. Again, a flood of complex and varied memories and emotions filled me. Parkside introduced us to so much really good congregational worship music, and modeled for us such beautiful and rich prayers, and so much of my memory of that time is wrapped up in memories of the beautiful, scripture-saturated, corporate prayers we prayed from sources like The Valley of Vision, among others, and worship music that was rich and deep. One of my most profound memories comes from an evening service during that cold Ohio winter.  Our pastor had just preached a sermon on our hope in Christ, and the closing hymn was It is Well With My Soul. There is something deeply moving and encouraging about standing in a room of people who deeply and truly believe with all their heart what they are singing, and sensing the genuine hope and longing mingled up in the heartfelt voices being raised together to worship our Savior. I hope I never forget how profound that is, though words cannot adequately describe it.

That year we lived in Shaker Heights was a difficult one for our whole family.  I don’t think I’ve ever been as lonely or depressed as I was by the end of that winter. I was talking a while back with one of my sons about that year and he told me some things about how lonely that year in middle school was for him. I cried. I had known it was hard on the kids, but I had not known that he ate by himself almost every day at lunch that year. My older two children both told me they never really fit in with the kids at their schools that year. It broke my heart all over again to hear that they were as lonely as I was there. And the winter. Oh, the bitter, bitter cold of that winter. These, sadly, are some of the complex memories and emotions that music also dredges up.

This, too, is why it is important to expose ourselves to good music. Though we did not live there long enough for it to come even close to ever feeling like home or to really get to know anyone well at all, though we did meet wonderfully kind and caring brothers and sisters in Christ I wish we had had the time to get to know better, had we not had the light of that church, it would have been much darker that year. This morning several songs came on that, to this day, lift my soul and remind me that there is so much more to life than what my circumstances scream at me. It is songs that are rich and doctrinal that will stand the test of time, and they bring a deep comfort to me even today because of the deep comfort they brought me in one of the most difficult years we’ve had. Songs that point me beyond my selfish depression to my glorious Jesus, who has never left me and never forsaken me. For all the darkness and loneliness, God used that time (as He has used many other times) to grow us close as a family, to introduce me to the treasure that is The Valley of Vision, to allow us to sit under truly excellent teaching and preaching, to grow me in learning how to pray deeper and to sing better and to draw me nearer to Him.  I wouldn’t trade it. And, talking with my boys in the years since, they, too have grown and learned, and in time, the next years in Texas allowed us to develop friendships and a loving church family that mended much of the loneliness we left behind. God is so kind.

I’m thankful for God’s good gift of music - all kinds of music, and the way it has a language of its own that often goes deeper than mere words. That’s why band kids can tell you that each year there’s always at least one piece among all the others that they all agree that all of them just LOVE to play. Music stirs us in a way little else can.  But, even more glorious, when beautiful music is combined with rich and Christ-exalting words, it can drive rich truth deep into our very soul in a way that words alone may not.  Can you even imagine, if music here is so mysteriously powerful, what the music of Heaven will be like?





Thursday, June 18, 2020

Gazing Into a Palantír

This morning as I was reading my social media news feeds, I realized a couple of things:

 First - I MUST stop letting that be the first thing I do in the morning.  My habit for years has been to read my Bible and pray in the morning.  For a long time I tried to make sure I didn’t read anything else before I had read the Bible and prayed, but recently, because I use my phone as my alarm clock, I’ve found myself slipping into the habit of checking my phone after the alarm goes off, before I’ve even gotten completely awake, and I find myself checking news headlines and social media feeds to see what new devilry has happened overnight (I can’t help but think of Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring whenever I look at my Twitter feed these days). I need to stop doing this.


This morning, I found myself scrolling through the news feeds and I realized I was feeling overwhelmingly discouraged over the fractured nature of our country, how quick to take offense many people on all sides of every issue seem to be, how quick many people on all sides of every issue seem to be willing to ‘cancel’ those who don’t hold to their exact view on any issue, how lacking in common civility and decency we are becoming and how hard it is to have a real and meaningful conversation and attempt at genuine understanding when differences of opinion are present, how unsettled and lacking in peace and hope things seem to be all around us, how even words don’t mean the same things anymore depending on who you’re listening to, how difficult it is becoming to believe anything you hear from any news source or so-called expert, and lots of other things, too. This bled over into my prayer time, as I admitted I don’t even know how to pray about some of the things we’re seeing. More on that in a minute.

Second - It occurred to me that too much poring over social media and a too steady diet of the 24/7 news media first thing in the morning and too much through out the day has just as poisonous an effect on my mind as looking into the Palantír did for Denethor, the Steward of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings

The Palantíri were crystal seeing stones in The Lord of the Rings world which allowed people to look into them and see real events and people - future or present wasn’t always clear. This from the Wikipedia article is helpful to describe them: “A major theme of Palantír usage is that while the stones show real objects or events, they are an unreliable guide to action, and it is often unclear whether events are past or future: what is not shown may be more important than what is selectively presented. Further, users with sufficient power can choose what to show and what to conceal: in The Lord of the Rings, all uses of Palantíri influence the action through deception or misreading of what is shown.” 

Stay with me, I think you’ll see the analogy I’m trying to paint. One of the big dangers with using the Palantíri by the time of the events in The Lord of the Rings is that not all of them were still accounted for - some had been lost, meaning you had no way of knowing who else was using one somewhere else and since they are connected, you had no way of knowing who else might be influencing what you were seeing. 

In the case of Denethor of Gondor, he had been looking into a Palantír and it had driven him a bit mad with despair.  He saw the evil that was encroaching as unavoidable and insurmountable. In a word, he felt they and their way of life were doomed.  Ultimately, as the Wikipedia quote suggests, this proves to be an unreliable guide to action as he makes very unwise decisions that not only affect him but many others as well. In the end, in his despair and madness he chooses suicide, very nearly taking his son Faramir with him, were it not for the heroic actions of Gandalf and Pippin who had not yet succumbed to the mind-numbing despair.

I see a parallel here with social media and news feeds.  Often what is in the news stories we read may be true, or at least contain facts that are true, but we don’t know what is being left out or how those facts are being selectively presented, and we don’t always know who, what, or even the why that is driving the narrative being presented. Very often, what is not being said may be as important, if not much more important, that what is being said. It is frighteningly easy to deceive people and twist the truth in a blog post, news story, social media post, speech, etc.  And another parallel is that we don’t always know what powerful person or entity may be behind the decisions to mislead or deceive by choosing what to include and what to conceal with the theory, post, news story, speech, or whatever that we’re reading, or what motives are driving them.  

So, what I’ve been thinking about today is that I need to be careful about how much time I spend allowing myself to gaze into the Palantír of social media.  A steady diet of it isn’t wise or healthy for me.  A sure sign that I’ve gazed there too long is when that malaise and sense of despair and futility begin to descend over me.  

I need to be much more diligent to fill my mind with truth.  I need to be vigilant about news sources and do my homework and check out sources, yes. But even more importantly, I need to start my day and fill my mind with God’s word first.  I need to filter my thinking through the lens of His word, and make sure I’m spending much more time developing a godly worldview, a biblical worldview, than I am soaking up a worldly mindset and listening to voices that do not know Christ.  The more I know Christ, the more steeped I am in His word, the better able I am to discern truth from error when I do watch the news or read social media posts.  

And remember how I said sometimes I just don’t know how to pray about what I’m seeing happening in the world around me, that it just seems so broken? Well, that’s when I take great comfort in knowing that when I don’t know how to pray as I ought, the Holy Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) I take great comfort in knowing that Jesus Himself is at the right hand of the Father ever interceding for His people and He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God in Him. (Hebrews 7:25). God is sovereign and He is working all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:29)  Nothing can separate His people from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord - not even the overwhelmingly discouraging and even frightening things we see happening in our fractured and divided country around us. (Romans 8:38-39)  I may not understand what’s happening, but I can trust that God knows and He is working all things for His glory and for our good, and He loves His people. It is in this light, in this understanding that I must decide how to respond and act in the world. 

This is where I need to put my focus and attention, where I need to spend the bulk of my mental and emotional energy, and I need to be very wary how I view the Palantír of social media and the daily news feeds and not let them deceive me or unduly influence how I view the world and how I live and act in it.  







Saturday, June 06, 2020

Politically Homeless

Psalm 118:8-9
“It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.”

I have been realizing more and more over the past few years that I am increasingly politically homeless in my country.  I truly don’t fit comfortably anywhere in that sphere, and thinking through how to vote has become more and more difficult. 

I am not sure this is truly a bad thing. 

For most of my time on social media, I’ve been pretty careful not to get too political or opinionated about things that are overly divisive which could obscure the main thing I want to be known for, and that is my love for Jesus and His gospel. I just don’t want to be known for my political opinions. It’s not that I don’t have them. It’s not that I don’t think they are important or worth wrestling through.  But I have chosen not to make that my main talking point on my social media feeds. 

I was listening to Todd Friel discussing what it is to live for God’s glory recently on the Wretched Radio podcast.  He was trying to articulate that we need to concentrate on Jesus, draw near to Him, know Him more, and then….live.  Not agonize over decisions, but live.  Repent when we need to, and recognize our solid security in Christ.  Find that sweet spot of loving Jesus and living in that light. He was getting at the concept of abiding in Christ. 

This is where I want to keep my focus.  

And if finding myself increasingly politically homeless means I place less of my hope in whoever does or does not get elected, I think I’m learning to be ok with that. I will think carefully, be as wise as I can, understand the issues as best I can, vote as best I can, and then let go of anxiety over it.  I won’t stress over the fact that no one in the running is what I wish I had as an option to vote for. 

And when elections are over, I will pray for whoever is elected.  I will pray for our elected officials to make wise decisions that are good for the people. I will pray for wisdom for the people to live peaceably and in order. And I will pray for Christian people to be bold in their witness, confident in God’s word, genuinely loving and caring for our neighbors and those in need, willing to stand for what is right even when it’s hard, and most of all willing to gently, reverently, and solidly give a defense for the hope that lives within us. 

And most importantly, I rest in the confidence that God is sovereign over the nations, including this one. God is always working all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, and He is working all things for His glory, and in this we can lay our heads down and rest.  And in this confidence, we can fix our eyes on Jesus and we can live. 

I read Psalm 118 today, and those verses I quoted at the beginning of this stuck out to me. My hope and refuge are always in the LORD, whether I feel good about the politicians, or, like now, I feel so alienated from all of them. My refuge is Christ. And in Him, I will pray for my country, but I will not be anxious. 

After all, we are called to be in this world, yes, and I want to be a good citizen, good neighbor, good friend, etc. while in this world, but still, we are not to be of the world. Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21).

So, while the things of this world are important and we want to live in such a way that our actions are informed and beautified by our faith, it is vastly important to keep them in perspective.  And it just may be that this season of political homelessness could be serving to knock down the idol of thinking that political security is where my security of life rests.  It doesn’t.  No matter what happens in that sphere, Jesus is where my hope rests. Looking to Him, I can live confidently, and I can refuse to let the headlines and other people’s anxiety and rhetoric and click bait spin me up and get me agitated.  

So, maybe being politically homeless isn’t such a bad thing after all.




Sunday, May 03, 2020

Morning Will Come

“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream has ended: this is the morning.” 
- Aslan in The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

My daughter and I have used this stay at home time to read C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia together. These books have been like treasured friends since I was young, some of my very favorite and well-loved books which I’ve read more times than I can remember.  I greatly enjoyed experiencing them with my 13-year-old daughter these past couple of months, and we cried together as we finished The Last Battle yesterday. She said it’s so sad when you end a good series like this because it’s like saying good-bye to friends.  I agree.  

I do have some issues with C.S. Lewis and some of his theology, and we discussed some of it when it was necessary while reading the books, but one thing he does very, very well is to depict what it is like to have a deep reverence and longing for Christ and for Heaven through his story-telling.  The beauty of the stories, how he shows you can have great joy in the beauty of this life, but yet still have a deep longing for something greater than what we merely taste and glimpse as a shadow in this life has always been what I love about the Narnia stories, but this time especially, it just hit me so strongly. I’m careful not to take the works of fiction that the Narnia books are and make them something they shouldn’t be, but I am thankful for the encouragement they give me to think deeper about the truth of Heaven and the brilliance and beauty of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. These books aren’t meant to be an allegory, but looking beyond the stories, they do help me to look at Jesus in a more devotional way, to long to love Him and long for His return and long for the day when all tears and sickness and all of the ‘all things’ that are working together for good for those who are called according to His purpose and who love Him will be fulfilled and the dream will have ended and the morning will have come. 

I’ve mentioned before how we’ve just finished our Bible study in Romans, and this morning as I was preparing for our online worship service with our church, I was going over the verses I’m memorizing, Romans 8:37-39, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This morning that just set so very solidly in my heart as I pondered these words.  What joy. What hope. What peace.  

And then, y’all, church this morning was wonderful.  With just having finished that book yesterday and still feeling that longing for Christ and for Heaven that is so beautifully illustrated in it, I could not sing the songs today without tears. The songs we sang were glorious and so Jesus-focused. The energy of the singing, the urgency of the pastoral prayer, the encouragement of the sermon, were such a blessing today, and while it caused me to greatly miss being with my church family even more, it energized me to worship as I sat in my living room with my family.  Once again I’m reminded that Sundays are a celebration, but also a time to stir up our longing for the day when we will see Jesus face to face. I’m so thankful for Sundays. I need this time to recharge and to reflect and to be encouraged to remember the truth and be pointed toward Jesus. 

I’ve been struggling recently with some depression, and all of these things, the Narnia books, our study in Romans, the faithfulness of our pastors and elders to lead us well in this challenging time when we cannot be together physically, have helped me lift my eyes and fix them on Jesus.  I cannot adequately put into words how much lighter I feel today than I have in a long time, and how I long to love Jesus more and live with a heart that is undivided and wholly serving Him. This is the joy of eternal life - joy and peace in this life, knowing Jesus, knowing that nothing - no circumstances that surround us, no depression that messes with our mind and emotions, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and knowing His peace and joy in the longing for that day when we will see Him face to face. And ultimately there is the joy of knowing that one day, in His time and good Providence, the dream will end and the true morning will come.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Whatever We Trust In

I woke up the other day feeling anxious and depressed, more than I think I ever have before.  I could write all the thoughts I felt crushing me that have been feeding that, many that are serious enough things to be concerned about, but somehow I had let these things become out of perspective in my thinking.  Many of these things are important and need to be discussed and hashed out in our society, but most of them are not my responsibility. I started to write about the things I’m concerned and frustrated and depressed about several times, but each time I felt a check in my spirit, and I decided to keep the details to my private journal and private prayer closet.  Except for this one: I miss church.  I just do. I miss the refreshing of the soul we get when we see each other singing and see each other responding to the Word being preached.  Virtual services are nice, since we can’t have the embodied meeting together, but in no way is it enough. 

So, with that background, the blues that hit hard the other day and which I’m battling to keep in proper perspective, today, during my morning prayer time I read this in one of the prayers from The Valley of Vision and it spoke right to my heart: 

“Remember, O my soul,
It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God:
He requires it of thee for all his favors of grace.
Rejoice then in the Giver and his goodness,
Be happy in him, O my heart, and in nothing but God,
for whatever a man trusts in,
from that he expects happiness.”


As I read and prayed through that, when I got to those words, “for whatever a man trusts in, from that he expects happiness,” I stopped and realized that the frustration and depression I am feeling in response to all these things I’m not discussing in detail are, in fact, a gift of grace, because that anxiety and depression are pin-pointing areas I have been sinfully placing my trust and hope for happiness in, without even realizing it.  

We are working on our last lesson from the book of Romans in our women’s Bible study this week, and after months of focusing mostly on Romans 8, this gentle reminder to check the idols in my heart and keep my focus and trust and hope grounded on nothing but God Himself is landing on prepared soil in my heart, where I’ve been meditating and pondering just what it means that God works ALL THINGS for the good of the people who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  All things means all things, even this season of not being able to meet together as a church family, and even those things I woke up anxious and depressed about. So, while the tears are real, and the concerns are real, so, too, and more so, is the genuine, deep, underlying, soul uplifting hope real.  I don’t have to be crushed by anxiety and depression.  I may not be able to control all the physical responses or stop the tears immediately, but I can fix my eyes, even when tear-filled, on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith and purpose in my heart to present my body as a living sacrifice and renew my mind by the washing of His word and choose joy, because He is the sustainer of our joy. 

A few other practical things I’m doing to reorient my thinking and keep things in perspective:

-I’m taking a mental health break away from Facebook and Next-door.  I don’t need one more preachy article about how anxious the secular world thinks we need to be right now and I’m tired of the memes and lectures
-Focusing more purposefully on the scripture passages I’m trying to memorize
-Taking time to pray whenever I feel the anxiety or depression rear up
-Talking through these things with my husband, who often has a great way of helping me see things in proper perspective
-Staying in God’s word and remembering that He is sovereign and His Providence is good all the time
-Listening to good podcasts (Truth for Life with Alistair Begg, Wretched Radio with Todd Friel, Just Thinking with Virgil Walker and Darrell Harrison)
-Making sure to take some time often to listen to doctrinally rich music

Because whatever a man trusts in, from that he expects happiness.  

Psalm 33:18-22
“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their souls from death
and keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.”