Tuesday, December 24, 2013

For The Doubting, Dreading and Depressed

Not exactly a joy-filled title for a Christmas post, I know. However, if we're being honest, this may be closer to reality. We hear the Christmas songs and we want it to be our story, but it's not. I can't muster up the "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" spirit. I'm not "Dreaming of a White Christmas"; I'm longing for a time when there will be no more tears. Let's face it, life is hard. And it's not getting easier. Every year that goes by I look back and think, I'm so glad that's over, and I think, surely next year will be better. You know the story, next year comes bringing a whole host of new problems. They seem to pile up until the dam breaks and life crushes you, leaving you doubting your faith, dreading gatherings with family or friends, or depressed about the curve ball life has thrown you. Illness, relational tension, faithlessness, finances - all are major stressors magnified this time of year. If only I had exercised more. If only I hadn't said what I said. If only I believed better. If only I had saved more money.

These are real feelings, real circumstances and this is real life. The hard part about Christmas is that everyone around seems so filled with the "Christmas Spirit" only increasing your awareness of your own lack of it. You look around and think; "What's wrong with me?" "Why can't I just get it together...everyone else has!" So, you try to get it together, and you try to do it by Christmas day! The pressure is on so hurry up and do the things you need to do to get the spirit going. Pray more or party more. Serve more or shop more. How's that working for you? I'll go first - it's not working at all...I'm still doubting, dreading and depressed. At first glance those seem like strong words. Here's how they play out:

I am doubting my faith. I can't explain it. Things don't seem to make sense to me like they once did. I have questions and I am doing some fist shaking at God. My heart feels cold to the things of God. What once excited me about worship, doesn't now. I feel like a fake and like I'm just going through the motions. I keep thinking it's going to get better.

I'm dreading church because of my doubting faith. I love my church. But now, I'm reminded of how cold my heart feels and I dread walking in and leaving once more feeling the same way. Again, I ask myself, "What's wrong with me?"

I'm depressed about all of this. Not in a true clinical way, but the kind of depression that seeps in and hovers. The cloud that doesn't seem to lift. The constant heaviness and numbness of heart.

Good news? Well, I know what it is intellectually. You know what it is too. We are reminded of it everywhere this time of year. Christ came as baby - the ultimate power clothed in weakness. He came to rescue wanderers, rebels, thieves and prostitutes like us. We weren't looking for him; in fact we were running. He seeks out the runners, the hiders, the pretenders. He marched on towards the cross - the place where Justice and Mercy kissed. He triumphed over death and sin and accomplished what he came to do - to set at liberty those who are enslaved and oppressed - and yes, to set free the doubting, the dreading and the depressed. Problem is, I'm having a hard time believing all this right now.

So, I wait.

I doubt.

Like Thomas I say; "Unless I see...I will never believe."

This is the same Thomas who said; "Let us also go, that we may die with him", knowing that going to Jerusalem surely meant the end for Jesus.

This disciple was willing to die for Jesus, and yet, after the resurrection he cowered and boldly refused belief unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and felt His wounds with his own hands. I like him. His faithlessness resonates with me.

Good news? Jesus came to him. Jesus showed himself to Thomas. He remained unfazed by Thomas' doubting. That's the gospel. Jesus comes to the weak and the broken. He seeks out the doubting, dreading and depressed. He came to Thomas knowing Thomas would never believe until he saw. Jesus knows that about you and about me too.

This time of year is a reminder that Jesus came then, and comes now, for all those who are in over their heads. He comes for the depleted, desperate and drowning. He comes for those who have tried a life preserver and realized they don't just need a helping hand. We need a death. We need a Resurrection. We need a Savior.

If you can't muster up a "Merry Christmas" like me, try these two words...they are on my lips too:

Jesus, help.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

God Could Not Cease Being God

God could not cease being God even if sinners took it upon themselves to convict God of every evil known to humankind, to kill him, and then to declare that "God is dead!" By what or whom does God need justification? Does the pot say to the potter, Why have you made me thus? Nevertheless when a preacher comes with the words of forgiveness God wants the hearers to justify him for that act. That is what deum justificare means, to "give God his due." What is due God? Not a sacrifice or a work of the law, but trust in his promise alone.

Steven Paulson, Lutheran Theology




Monday, December 9, 2013

Brokenness

From the archives, this is a good reminder of my brokenness and God's ability to put things back together:

"My husband and I purchased these two sets of crystal ornaments over twenty five years ago - icicles and birds.

They are pure, clear, bright and reflective.

They freely dangle from thin branches.

They are old, fragile and delicate.

Some have broken and yet some have survived over the years.

These fragile and delicate ornaments remind me of all the hopes and dreams of my earlier years. I can recall the various times throughout my life where a shattering broke in and loss produced a void.

Relationships were sharply severed, loved ones suddenly died...my heart was left tattered and my spirit crushed. But in the midst of the shattering and among the devastation of brokenness there has always been a persevering and a saving Hand.

While things were breaking apart there was a re-assembly taking place. 

It may not have always been clear at the time. I needed the hindsight that distance brought to be able to see the greater purposes for the pain.

I take comfort as I pull these fragile ornaments out each year. I remember the brokenness and the shattering of the past, and then I marvel at the clarity and beauty of the re-assembly and restoration."

At the time that I wrote this (December 2011) my marriage was falling apart, leaving me tattered and torn. It was broken (read about it here) and some thought beyond repair. There was nothing I could do to put it back together. Our marriage needed outside intervention - a redemption and restoration outside our own abilities.

These fragile glass ornaments remind me of my brokenness and God's redemption.They give me a renewed awareness of my weakness and a thankfulness for God's perseverance.

They remind me of the hope in the One who renews, and redeems.

He died to redeem all that was lost.

He lives to reweave all that has unraveled.

He comes to put back together everything that's been broken.

He loves to restore all that's been taken.

He will return one glorious day to make everything sad untrue.

To make everything new forever and ever.

Oh Glorious Day!
Come Lord Jesus, come.


Hallelujah






Cloverton