Saturday, February 6, 2010

#20) Joy In Sorrow

Grief and sorrow is a part of our every day experiences. It feels like it is impossible to go one full day without feeling upset or sorrowful about something. We feel sad when someone hurts us. We feel angry when someone offends us. We feel depressed when we feel like everything is wrong and out of our control.

Deployment is a time when a lot of people start to feel the impact of grief. In fact, I know quite a few people who are on antidepressants just to get through the days because they feel the stress is too much to bear. Not only do these people have to face the stresses of deployment but they also have to do it during the holidays. It’s no wonder people get stressed and depressed.

Ask congregation if they ever feel depressed.

Grief, sorrow, and depression are nothing new. Charles Spurgeon was a great Biblical teacher from the 1800’s. He often preached to audiences larger than 10,000 people at a time. Despite how strong a Christian this man was, even he suffered from depression on a daily basis.

Charles Spurgeon
Fits of depression come over the most of us. Cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.

Spurgeon would often get so bad that he would be out for months at a time. Grief, sorrow, and depression are very real things that must be addressed. In fact, we see much of it in Scripture.

Psalm 11:5
But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

Ecclesiastes 1:8-9
All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:11
Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

Genesis 42:38
But Jacob said, "My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow."

Psalm 31:10a
For my life is spent with sorrow
And my years with sighing;

Jeremiah 8:18
My sorrow is beyond healing,
My heart is faint within me!

One man in the Bible suffered more than most. His name was Job. Job was a righteous man who loved God. Despite this, Job lost it all.

Job 1:14-19, 2:7-8
a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you."…………… Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.

Job lost his animals, his servants, his children, his wealth, and his health. His wife was nagging him and his friends were trying to make him believe he did something wrong to deserve it. In actuality, there was never a response more Godly than Job’s.

Job 1:21-22 , 2:10b
He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there the LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God……………Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Even though Job was praising God, this does not mean he was not suffering. In fact, an entire chapter of the book of Job is dedicated to him cursing the day of his birth. He was at the point where he wish he had never been born.

Read Job chapter 3.

Grief, sorrow, and depression are not things to be ashamed of. They are natural feelings. As we have seen, many Godly men throughout Scripture suffered from bouts of depression. In fact, even Jesus had to deal with depression and grief.

Matthew 26:37-38
And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me."

The problem is not in the depression. The problem lies in the way many people go about dealing with it. At the beginning I said there are many people on this ship who are on antidepressants to help them deal with the stresses of the ship. This is because they are focusing on the temporal instead of the eternal. They focus on a cultural practice instead of Biblical guidance.

My own wife is currently struggling with antidepressants. She went on them after she gave birth to our daughter. All the hormones were rapidly leaving her body, I left for deployment 5 days after the birth, she had 2 kids to deal with, and she had never been on her own. She came down with a serious case of postpartum depression. She didn’t know where to turn so she did what most people do. She turned to psychiatrists and medication. I had the same stance then as I do now but I was seen as the ignorant husband who didn’t know what he was talking about. Here we are a year and a half later and she now has a strong desire to come off of the medication. The problem is that her body has become dependent on them. Without them, she has a very hard time going through each day. Despite this, she is still trying.

Ask congregation what antidepressants are meant to do.

Antidepressants are not meant to heal. In fact, there is no healing power to them whatsoever. Just as Tylenol is meant to mask the symptoms of a headache, antidepressants are meant to mask the symptoms of depression. Tylenol functions long enough to get you through the pain and then you stop. Depression lasts a lot longer than 8 hours. It can take months, years, or an entire lifetime to heal from it. Antidepressants simply mask the symptoms to help you cope with it. In and of itself, this does not seem to be a problem. However, if we look at it a bit further, we can see there is more to it.

Depression brings about sadness, anxiety, grief, and a lack of control. Anybody in their right mind would desire to get rid of it. Antidepressants are one way to deal with it. However, antidepressants also cause addiction and dependence. Thankfully, we have another alternative; an alternative that one could only hope to be addicted to.

Galatians 5:22-23a
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;

Notice that it does not say the “fruits” of the Spirit. It says the fruit. It is singular. There is only one fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is made up of each and every trait mentioned in Galatians. If one is truly focusing on God, he will embody love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control all at the same time. If one is already portraying these traits, why is there a need for medication?

As it stands, our culture has become dependent on antidepressants. It is to be expected for a non-Christian. They have nothing to focus on but the temporal of this world. As a Christian, we have a much greater hope and calling. We have the eternal. We have the Spirit. Why then do we often get so caught up in the temporal and forget about the eternal? Why do we forfeit our fruit of the Spirit and seek a replacement in the temporal? A band named Skillet has some great lyrics regarding to matter.

Skillet, You’re Better Than Drugs
You're better than drugs
Your love is like wine
Feel you comin' on so fast
Feel you comin' to get me high

You're better than drugs
Addicted for life
Feel you comin' on so fast
Feel you comin' on to get me high

Feel you when I'm restless
Feel you when I cannot cope
You're my addiction, my prescription
My antidote

You kill the poison
Ease the suffering
Calm the rage when I'm afraid
To feel again

There are many types of depression. Some is purely mental. An example of this would be of someone who just feels overburdened and doesn’t see a way out. Other people suffer from a physical form of depression. My wife would fall under this example. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the body which leads to swaying emotions that are stronger than normal. Some say there is a need for antidepressants to counterbalance the chemicals in the body. They claim that without the meds, the body is broken and will not heal properly. It sounds like a decent point except for the fact that Scripture is clear that we do not need them to portray love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self control. These things should come from the Spirit. To seek them elsewhere is to replace the Spirit and claim that He is not sufficient.

I am not anti-medication. Medication can be a great tool. It saves people from disease. It saves babies from premature death. It prevents illness in the form of immunizations. It can relieve temporary physical pain until the body gets over an illness. All of these are wonderful things. I am only against replacing Christ with something else. The world has done this in our schools. The world has done this with holidays. The world has done this with religions. Now the world has infiltrated the medical field by deceiving millions of Christians into believing they must have something other than the Spirit to portray the fruit of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:16

Romans 12:2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

It is not something that anyone can claim to be easy. Indeed, it is a very difficult challenge. It is so much easier to hop on the bandwagon and seek out the medication instead of digging through the trenches of one’s soul to seek out God. As I stated earlier, Charles Spurgeon would be out for months on end at times due to his depression but he continually sought after God to provide him with the relief promised in Scripture. He was truly a man of God who knew the promises of God and accepted no substitutes for the sake of ease and comfort.

Not only does Scripture tell us what we can have and how to get it, it also tells us how to cope during bouts of depression to ensure we still rely on the Spirit and stay focused on God.

1 Peter 5:7
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Philippians 4:6-7
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When you feel down or anxious, you have instruction. We are never left alone to ourselves. God is always with us. Furthermore, we have His Word. We have clear instruction. Let your requests be made known to God. Cast all your cares on Him. Trust in Him. Focus on Him. Let Him provide you with the promise of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
We may not always know why we are suffering. Job certainly did not know why he lost all that he did. We get an inside look into his life that he never had. Despite this, he praised God and never let his focus turn off of Him. Furthermore, we have more promises that should bring us an even greater hope.

Hebrews 12:11
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

James 1:2
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

John 16:20
Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.

We have been promised a light at the end of the tunnel. Whether that light is here on Earth or in Heaven above, we are promised it nonetheless. Eventually, all sorrow yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness and all grief will be turned into joy. Keep God at the center of your focus and allow Him to bring you His promises through the Spirit. It is okay to grieve so long as we do not take our eyes off Christ.

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