When the Dust Settles: Living in the Wake of Depression

It’s a quiet morning.

A couple weeks have gone by since a friend passed away from suicide. I sit alone with a cup of coffee. Life has inescapably moved forward. The dust of that crazy, moment has somewhat settled.

And that, in and of itself, can create a problem, especially for those who deal with depression or are directly affected by the loss it brings.

Just because things externally have subsided doesn’t mean things internally are resolved.

Our church community (Kfirst) supports an organization that is helping the people of the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. It’s called Convoy of Hope. What I love about COH is that they’re not only prepped and ready to respond when a disaster presents itself but has plans for long-term assistance with putting life back together for the area affected by the tragedy.

Convoy of Hope is there when “life hits” and still present when the “dust settles.”

And that my friends is what those of us that deal with inner darkness need most.  Yes, we need you when life hits us hard. But we still need you present when the “dust settles.” That’s the moment where life moves forward and we cannot afford to go back to “business as usual.” The tragedy must produce change in our praying, thinking, loving, and engaging.

Luke 24 is one of those “the dust has settled” moments. Jerusalem has calmed down a bit since the crucifixion of Jesus. These two men walk have lived through the whirlwind that has been the previous couple days (arrest, trial, death of Jesus). They now depart from the city and, unbeknownst to them, the resurrected Jesus is about to join them on their journey.

v. 17 And he (Jesus) said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.

The death of their Savior devastated them. And now that the event was over, most likely, they were heading back to their hometowns to resume the life they knew before they met Jesus. Back to “business as usual.”

They don’t even know it’s Jesus. Their inability to recognize him, I believe, was less about Jesus concealing his identity and more about how our depression and hopelessness work. Mental and emotional darkness tends to manipulate the senses preventing people from seeing or sensing what seems completely obvious to everyone else.

This is what Jesus stepped into. And He listened to them as they started sharing their hearts with these four words:

v. 21, “But we had hoped…”

These words were not spoken in ignorance. Luke 24 tells us they knew how Jesus had foretold His resurrection because they recognize it was the “third day” after His death. They’ve heard the eye-witness testimony of the ladies who visited the empty tomb and encountered the angel. They had even received word that Peter and John had confirmed the empty tomb.

But we had hoped…”

Quite often, we can be quick to respond to a tragic moment but forget that there’s more to do when things settle. We can get so busy celebrating “empty tomb” experiences but fail to realize there are those still aching from the wounds of the original event. Just because life moved forward doesn’t mean they have. Just because you see something hopeful doesn’t mean they feel the hope.

The dust of the event may have settled, but what is happening inside of them has not. They are still living in the wake of tragedy.

Enter Jesus.

Jesus stepped into their journey with them.
If you notice the scripture, Jesus didn’t stop them from the direction they were walking. He joined them and walked with them. It’s such a simple point that needs to be highlighted. He didn’t stop them to shift them into direction that made Him feel more comfortable. “Hey, guys, let’s go back to Jerusalem and talk.” Jesus met them on their journey. He chose to walk with them in their hopelessness.

Jesus listened before He spoke.
Listening is not waiting for your turn to talk. Listening is being fully present and fully aware of what is being communicated. These two are externally processing their inner turmoil. How do we know Jesus fully listens to them? Because we get every detail of why they feel what they feel. Listening isn’t leverage to tell your story. Listening is the invitation to step into someone else’s story that may or may not include yours.

Jesus DIDN’T “top” their pain with His own.
He didn’t tell them, “You think you’re suffering, let me give you a clue to what I dealt with this past week.” You may think you’re “connecting” with their pain or helping draw them out of their personal darkness by showing them that their issues are not as bad as you may see them. But it’s causing more harm than good. “Topping” someone’s pain/story doesn’t connect to them. It only devalues them and labels you as an “unsafe listener.”

Jesus fed their soul hope.
Too often, we separate the spiritual from the practical, emotional, and/or mental. And when we do that, we short-change people. The Greek word is Zoé. John 10:10 is where Jesus talked about coming that we might have life (Zoé). That life impacts on all four of those levels (spiritual, physical/practical, emotional, mental). They affect one another to bring complete life/health to us human beings. Look at Luke 24:

Jesus was fully present with them: emotional health
Jesus listened and dialoged about their mentality: mental health
Jesus ate with them: physical/practical health
Jesus spoke hope to them: spiritual health

The results: These two men who “had hoped” left that place and went back, full of hope, ready to tell others what they had discovered.

Jesus didn’t come to make us “un-sad.” He came to give us life to the nth-degree. And I wonder if we’d see more people “full of hope” (Luke 24)  if we choose to have that Christ-like (Zoé) approach by pouring into people spiritually, practically, emotionally, and mentally. Instead of just trying to get people to stop being so down, perhaps Zoé can give us a game-plan and a pattern to strategically pour life into those who feel lifeless.

This is what I need when I face my inner darkness. This is what I want to be for others.

I want to be there when “life hits” and still present when the “dust settles.” I want to be that physical reminder that Jesus is not just present now, but ready to help navigate (Zoé) life with them moving forward.

This is our role as the Church. We are a convoy of hope to the sphere of influence God has placed us. And since Jesus met us and filled us with hope, we are to go and do likewise.

Healing Begins with Forgiveness

Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

Last Sunday at Kfirst was pretty awesome. If you missed it, click here for the Livestream from it.

There’s something about seeing people, in humility, stand and admit, “I’m dealing with bitterness and/or unforgiveness.” There’s something about that step of faith that confronts your own issues in order to see growth and change.

And that’s where healing begins. Forgiveness is where healing begins.

There’s something about an heart that is broken by offense that heals different than a bone that has been broken by an impact. While a bone can heal and you may think nothing of it a year later, an offended heart can think of the offense a year later and want to return to the broken state.

And we in the church world can simply say, “forgive” and it will be all better. While the principle is correct, we misunderstand that forgiving someone is making the daily decision to choose mercy and grace over bitterness and resentment. It is that every day decision to follow Christ and not where our desires want to lead us. 

We forgive as quickly and thoroughly as we’ve been forgiven.

Forgiveness doesn’t validate the one(s) who hurt you. Forgiveness doesn’t justify their hurtful actions toward you or the ones you love. Forgiveness is that choice that says, “Despite what has happened, I refuse to be held captive to the offense. I will show the depth of grace that I have been shown in Christ Jesus.” 

Showing grace and forgiveness releases me.
It saves me.
It sets me free

As I’ve heard it said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness doesn’t mean a trust is rebuilt. It doesn’t mean you don’t have boundaries in the friendship. Grace doesn’t mean the friendship will be (or should be) reconciled. It just means you are no longer living in the prison of bitterness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you get what you want. But forgiveness ushers in the peace, love, strength, wisdom, and honor into a moment that could have left you defensive, bitter, broken, and hurt. 

Today, would you step out and forgive? Would you trust God to get you through this forgiveness journey so that you can finally heal?  I love the words of Isaiah who said, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you” (Isaiah 26:3). He promises to grants us peace when we stop fixing our minds on other “things” and put our trust in Him. 

Be honest with yourself and the Lord. Trust God with your offense. Give your hurt to the Lord through prayer. Say it out loud or journal them out. Lay them at His feet, release the forgiveness, and let the healing begin. 

And tomorrow, if your heart wants to go back to them because it hasn’t fully healed, rinse and repeat.

I love you all. I’m praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble.

Marriage Mondays: 3 Ways We Can Play fair

So I thought I’d try something new.

For the past 5 years-ish, I’ve reserved most of my marriage blogging for Fridays as people are heading into the weekend. So I thought, like a good cup of Costa Rican coffee on Monday morning, I’d start off the week with a simple marital challenge. So today, I thought I’d break down this week’s challenge to two words:

Play fair.

What often happens in marriage is what can happen in life. We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and our spouse by his/her actions.

Play fair.

A question I tend to ask couples in this place of tension is, “Do you trust your spouse’s heart? Do you believe he/she loves you?” If the answer is “no,” then there are other issues at hand. If the answer is “yes,” then my reply is simple: Then see his/her actions through those intentions and show the same grace you show yourself. Sometimes, the action holds more ignorance then intention; sometimes the heart was right but the method was not.

How much conflict do we entertain because we want grace for ourselves but justice for others? We allow ourselves space to work through our own issues but zero margin for our spouse.

Play fair.

“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” John 1:16

How do we navigate through this? Let’s make it as simple as A-B-C.

A – Ask clarifying questions.
Where the “A” you used to respond with was “Assume,” stop and ask your spouse about what you just experienced. Instead of jumping to imaginary conclusions, ask about the action(s) you just experienced with the same level of grace that Christ gave you. “I don’t understand what just happened. Help me understand…?” The beauty of verbalizing this as a question is, first, it gets you to think before you respond and second, it helps your spouse to own their actions. Sometimes, people don’t understand what their actions do. And even if they do, this gives them a chance to own their issues.

B – Be open to your spouse’s perspective.
Slip inside their skin and see things from their perspective. This doesn’t excuse behavior but it may explain it. And an explanation can bring understanding. Maybe their behavior wasn’t wrong at all but it stirred up a hurt from your past. Perhaps because expectations were not clarified, he/she didn’t realize an expectation wasn’t met. Don’t assume you are always in the right and/or don’t defend your “rightness” because you don’t want to be humble with your spouse. Make sure you show value to your spouse’s perspective with the same level that you expect for yours.

“But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” James 4:6

C – Confront with grace.
If the grace of God is not our default, it’ll cause more fracture than we anticipated. Grace is what steadies our hands and hearts so that we can build, adjust, and reinforce our marriage. But a misunderstanding about “grace” is that people see it as passive. I see it as aggressive. Grace doesn’t ignore or hide issues, it gives us the mindset and strategy to deal with them. It positions us for the greater health of the marriage and glorification of Jesus.

Today, stop judging yourself by your intentions and your spouse by his/her actions. Play fair.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “A Gospel-Centered Marriage” #FromThisDaySeries

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

Today we kicked off our annual marriage series with our Kfirst community. We looked at what a marriage looks like when the essence of the Gospel is embedded in the marriage.  (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

Our series is about looking at the daily decision to build our marriage through 4 areas shown in the example of how Jesus (groom) responds to us the Church (bride). We view each of the “4 Pillars” in a light that says, “From this day forward, I choose to grow and strengthen our marriage by asking questions, not from the aspect of “what’s missing” but “where can we start to work.”

  1. Grace
    • Question for my spouse: Do I lack grace in any area?
      • Grace Strengthens – 2 Timothy 2:1
      • Grace Labors – 1 Corinthians 15:10
      • Grace Serves – 1 Peter 4:10
      • Grace Responds – Romans 5:20-21
  2. Sacrifice
    • Question for my spouse: Am I more selfish than sacrificial?
  3. Servanthood
    • Question for my spouse: Is there anything I need to stop or start doing?
  4. Forgiveness
    • Question for my spouse: Is there anything we need to make right?
    • 4 Parts of Forgiveness
      • 1 – Confession “I was wrong…I don’t blame others, I own it”
      • 2 – Sorrow “I am sorry for…” (It’s being sorry for a specific.
      • 3 – Request “Will you forgive me?”
      • 4 – Response “ I forgive you.”

Every one of us have been given a legacy of marriage. There wasn’t a choice about what we have been handed. But we do have a choice about what we will hand the generation that will follow. So we have determined “from this day forward,” we are going to leave a legacy that shows the Gospel of Jesus at the center of our marriage.

This week, would you sit down with your spouse and honestly and humbly ask the four questions? Would you be open to hearing not what YOU lack but what the BOTH of you can work on together?

Love you all.  Join us this Sunday as we continue our annual marriage series “From This Day Forward.”

BTW: Here’s a song for your week!

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “The Distraction of Rejection” #PivotPoint

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and long workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together. 

We continued our current series at Kfirst. “Pivot Point” has been our study of the life of Jacob. Even though he didn’t have the “model life”, God always had something beautiful in store for him. Our goal yesterday was to help people understand: “The rejection you feel has no bearing on the acceptance that you carry.” (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

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Like the narrative of Genesis 29-30 shows us, we can find ourselves shaping how we view our lives through the frame of our rejection.  And three of the main characters of our story shows us the variety of rejection we face.

  • Jacob – Performance Rejection (“if can do ______, then I can get my approval/achievement”)
  • Leah – Personal Rejection (“maybe if I try to _____, the he/she will accept me”)
  • Rachel – Reflective Rejection (“why does he/she get _______ and not me?”)

And because of rejection, we can easily find ourselves tethered by our pain. But as we said yesterday,

We believe that our places of brokeness can be God’s entry point for strength. As we look at the cross, we can see that see our hurt in the light of the acceptance He offers. Our simple next steps:

  1. Frame your vision with the mercy of God.
    • Every place where you sense that rejection is distracting you, see it through the lens of the mercy of God.
  2. Rest in God’s acceptance. Live for an audience of One.
    • Let go of the need to find approval and achievement. It doesn’t mean we stop “trying” to grow and accomplish things. It means we live for the audience of Jesus.

Spend some time in the Word and in prayer this week. Rest in the acceptance that Christ offers. If you need a scripture reading plan, check out this one.

Love you all.  See you on Sunday!

BTW: Here’s a song this week for your devotions playlist:

2 Minute Devo Series: Book of Matthew Day 21

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Welcome to our 2 Minute Devos. This month we’re going through the Book of Matthew. Take the time to read through the passage of the day and listen to the 2 Minute Devo.

Matthew 20

English Standard Version (ESV)

Laborers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius[a] a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them,‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’[b] 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

A Mother’s Request

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[c] 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,[d] 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord,[e] have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.