A Vaccine for Anxiety

Standard

I read an article in The New York Times that said although we – today, in this generation – are more wealthy, are more healthy, have a bigger sense of liberty and purpose than our parents and grandparents did in their generation, we are 20% more anxious and depressed.

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

Usually when anything increases 10% in any generation, it’s an epidemic. We are living in a double epidemic of depression and anxiety right now. 

This is The New York Times reporting this. They don’t lean to the right politically. They’re not really any friend of the church. They’re just doing their journalistic duty reporting that even though we are healthier than ever before and have all the advancements of the medical world available to us, and even though we are wealthier and have more opportunity and more means to make more money and even though we have a greater sense of liberty, meaning we can go anywhere, travel anywhere, set personal goals and bucket lists, with all of that – 

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

I’ve got a friend who is a pastor in the church. 8 years ago he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. As time went on after his diagnosis, he became fatigued toward the people in his church coming up to him Sunday after Sunday saying that the cure to his anxiety was that he just needed to trust Jesus a bit more. 

He told me one day over coffee that he wanted to lovingly punch the people who kept saying that all he needed to stop any anxiety attacks was to pray more. 

If you don’t know anything about having an anxiety disorder than you don’t know. 

I read about a man who experienced an anxiety attack for the first time and when it hit him, he thought he was having heart attack because his blood pressure was at the level of a stroke. 

The doctor told him to go home and rest, and for the next 3 nights he had an anxiety attack and thought he was dying. He was flown from Kansas City to Los Angeles for better care and for the next 6 months, every single night, he thought he was dying due to experiencing this anxious paralysis. 

$50,000 later with all the medical tests available, he was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. 

And this guy is a Christian leader, an elder in a church. He gets told all the time by people at his church to suck it up, pray it out, trust Jesus and he wants to slug people in their well-meaning faces. 

I know a woman in the church who struggles with an anxiety disorder and I reached out to her via Facebook-messenging last week asking her about her anxiety disorder and she wrote back – 

“You can do everything right in your marriage and it can still fall apart. You can do your best in raising your kids in a loving way – or even in the way the Bible wants you to – and there’s still no guarantee that when they are older they still love Jesus – they could walk away from God. You can do everything right at work and still not succeed in the way you expect .Or still not get promoted. Or still not find purpose. Or even lose your job. You can do everything right as a friend and still get back-stabbed by them.”

And then she wrote this – 

“This world is volatile and if you haven’t admitted that, it’s time to admit it.” 

The New York Times article referenced earlier goes on to say that the Western world, specifically America, is disintegrating from other inside out. That, no matter how much you convince yourself on the outside of things that everything is okay, your soul inside knows something is off. No matter how many trips you take or things you buy or nights out with friends or shows you binge to ignore it – something is off inside.

I’ll put it like this: 

In all of life, in every aspect, there will be a backdrop of disappointment and dissatisfaction. 

[insert sarcasm] Thanks for choosing to read my blog today. I hope you are fully encouraged. Enjoy the rest of your week.

…………………………..

No matter how much wealth, how much health, how much liberty you have to succeed or how great you look or how awesome your family is, depression and anxiety will set in if you think any of those things can really save you. 

Have you heard the latest report on what the death rate is right now? I didn’t have to Google the answer. The death rate is 1 per person.

You are going to die.
I am going to die.
Every day is a gift from God.

And if I attach myself to something that is also disintegrating, like my marriage, my kids, my job, my money, my health,  then my soul knows that and I will disintegrate as well. 

C.S. Lewis put it this way, 

“Most people, if they really learned how to look into their own hearts would know that they want something that this world can never give them. These longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning will ever satisfy. 

There is always something that we have grasped at that first moment of longing that just fades away with reality. The thing we thought we were going to get in the new experience always evades us.” [C.S. Lewis]

Part of the reason people come to Jesus and give their life to Him is they hope He will give them the idols they worship. They hope Jesus will give them a spouse, give them a child, give them their break through, give them their health back, give them a house like everyone else. 

People pray to Jesus all the time saying He’s their Savior but what they’re praying for is really their savior. 

Anxiety is ultimately the fear of losing someone or something you think you can’t live without. 

Yes, if it happens, one day, it’ll hurt to lose a job, lose a dream, lose a loved one, lose your own health. But the only thing you can’t truly live without is Jesus.

When our day doesn’t go how we thought, or our year doesn’t go as hoped, or our life turns out in a worse way than we dreamed (when a flu virus becomes a global pandemic) we forget there’s a sovereign God.

And I’m not a doctor or a scientist but if you feel like you don’t have control of your life you probably don’t have control of your life. 

The only thing that lasts is God. Everything else fades away. 

Your soul knows when you attach yourself to something other than Jesus and that’s why we get more miserable and more unsatisfied. 

We are only as durable as what we have placed our trust in. 

Did you know that beautiful people (to the world, I think all people are beautiful) but beautiful people to culture are more prone to commit suicide because as they get older, they lose their looks and figure and since they’ve attached their identity to their physical appearance, once that is gone, what do they have to live for in their mind? 

The Bible communicates that your life and mine is all about us having an intimate relationship with God and once you say you will believe in Him and follow Him, He will not only forgive you and bring you in, He will spend the rest of your life destroying your lesser loves. 

He will frustrate the things in your life you love more than Him – the things you think you can’t live without. If God doesn’t destroy what is destructible, you will place your identity and faith in it and it will destroy you from the inside out. 

That’s why I beg every Sunday when I preach at the loving church I am a part of for those listening to place Jesus at the center of who they are. They need love Him more than self, more than health, more than money, more than marriage, more than children, more than dreams, because if they don’t, those areas are going to be frustrated until Jesus is their passion and you are going to be anxious. 

As long as you think life is all about you and how fake great you are, anxiety and depression will grow in you. 

If you want the good and satisfying life Jesus came to earth to die and rise for you to have, you have got to let go of whatever or whoever you’ve attached yourself to and hang onto Him. 

Let go and let God.

It’s when we say, God, this life is not about me. It’s about You. I’m taking each day as a gift from You, no matter what happens, You are large and in charge and I am Your child, Your servant, I will trust in You. 

How many Christians are praying a prayer like that verses how many are over-reacting with anxiety at what is taking place in their lives or in the media?

If you want to let go of anxiety, you have to attach yourself to something eternal. 

If you attach yourself to someone or something other than Jesus, that something or someone is fading away and you will fade away with it, but if you attach yourself to Jesus, the One who was, is and will always be, you will live and your anxiety will fade away. 

But it’s a daily decision and I was hoping to give you that daily reminder today. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

How You Can and Can’t Help Someone Who is Struggling.

Standard

Charles Schulz’s famed character, Charlie Brown, tells his friend Linus this: 

I think there must be something wrong with me. Christmas is coming, but i’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. – Charlie Brown

The chances are very good and providential that at some point this Christmas season, you will be around someone who is struggling. You’ll notice it because Christmas has a way of making people vulnerable. These people struggling might be immediate or extended family, friends, co-workers, classmates or neighbors. 

Their struggle could be an addiction they keep succumbing to. It could be a sin they have been blind to. It could be a trial that weighs heavy on them. It could be the loss of something like a job or a marriage or a loved one. It could be loneliness. It could be they are struggling with how difficult this year has been and how little hope there is for the new year. 

But, you notice them and their struggle. And in your heart you have compassion and want to help them experience love and joy and peace. How can you help them? 

In the first century, in Jerusalem, there was a pool named Bethesda. In fact, the pool is still available to see today and has received an A+ grade for what it actually looked like 2,000 years ago. 

Anyone in the first century who was sick or lame or blind, they would lay near the porches of this pool because there was a mythical assumption that if you could just touch the water, it would heal them. 

Just like today, people in need of some kind of hope just about believe anything will help them. 

In the biblical book of John, chapter 5, there is a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. And just as you might find yourself around someone who is struggling, Jesus happens to cross paths with this crippled man. 

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” (John 5:6)  

That’s what Jesus asks this man? Would you like to get well?

Jesus does goes on to miraculously heal this man, because that’s what Jesus does, but I used to think this was such an unnecessary question.

Would you like to get well?

This guy has been crippled for four decades. He lays by a pool hoping one person on one day would pick him up and put him in the water because he thinks that will heal him, and no one has. He’s been ostracize from the marketplace. He’s been rejected by loved ones and strangers. If only he could be healed he could begin to build a life that gives him purpose and dignity and legacy. 

Of course he wants to get well. It feels like an unnecessary question by Jesus. 

But, let’s not forget Jesus never wasted one word He spoke. Nothing He did was unnecessary. The longer I am around broken people the more I see this is not a dumb question by Jesus. 

Wanting to get well is important. Some people don’t want to get better. 

When you have a loved one with an issue they are struggling with, you need to ask them this question, Do you want to get better? Human nature is that we will not change until the fear of the damage the issue is causing us is greater than the fear of changing our habits.

What’s also counter to human nature is humility. We have to admit we need help and we have to admit we are the ones that cannot change ourselves.

We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

There is power in powerlessness.

That’s Christmas. How dependent Jesus was on Joseph and Mary that night in Bethlehem as he was laid in an animal feeding trough? Jesus had no power to display as an infant and yet what results in Jesus conquering over death.

When you and I admit our weakness and admit we can’t do it on our own, that’s when God’s strength has the permission to flow through us. 

This Christmas and next year your loved ones might continue to be great an image-management. They appear put together and great and that nothing is wrong. But if they’re ever going to be healed, if they’re ever going to change or be free or have joy, they have to admit they can’t do it and that God can. 

They have to believe there is power in powerlessness. 

The day after Christmas a few years ago I got a call from friends who were married to each other and they needed to meet with me right away. On December 26th we met at my office.

It came out that the wife had found pictures of her husband and a female co-worker of his in a hotel room, and you can fill in the blanks. The wife found these scandalous pictures on the family iPad. And she found these pictures on Christmas Day.

With me probing a bit for further context, it also came out that the wife had cheated on her husband a couple years earlier in their marriage. 

These were church-going people. They had worshipped God their entire lives.

The reason there was pain in their marriage was because they were masters of image-management. Neither one wanted to admit they were powerless to change and that they were going to be fine. 

I didn’t berate them. That’s not what friends do, it’s not what leaders do. I told them that God’s power could change them and heal them if they were willing to let Him. I simply wanted to see if they wanted to get well. 

Then I told them there is one thing in this world greater than the power of God.

There is one thing greater than the power of God. It’s the love of God.

If they wanted their marriage to heal, if they wanted to forgive each other, if they wanted to change, God’s power could do that. But until they saw God’s love for them in their mess, whether they wanted to change or not, they wouldn’t want to change. 

It’s why Jesus asks, Do you want to get well? 

It’s the double-edged sword of free will. If we choose to seek after God He will heal us but if we choose to not seek after God, He can’t heal us. He still loves us and He still will pursue us, but for change or healing becomes a reality – surrender needs to happen. There is power in powerlessness.

There’s a book called, Generation Me, written by Jean Twenge. Dr. Twenge has a PhD, does a lot of research, and her book is all about the ever-increasing growing epidemic of narcissism in our culture. She writes,

Our growing tendency to put the self first leads to unparalleled freedom, but it also creates an enormous amount of pressure on us to stand alone. This is the downside of the focus on the self. When we are fiercely independent and self-sufficient, our disappointments loom large because we have nothing else to focus on.” – Dr. Jean Twenge

This is how people without Jesus think. They either focus on themselves and how great they are or they focus on their problems and how bad things are.

The answer to being humble in our success and to be transformed in our trial is to focus our life on Jesus. It’s so easy to veer our thoughts to ourselves and to our problems.

Y’all know the movies that Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell did? Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty? – If not watched, I can think of myself as, Zach Almighty. I love talking about Zach. My theme song can be Toby Keith’s,  I wanna talk about me, I wanna talk about I, I want to talk about number one, me, my, oh-my. 

I can tend to sound like the annoying seagulls in the movie Finding Nemo: Mine. Mine. Mine Mine. 

I love the idea of Santa and how excited children get because as adults we lose some of that wonder and imagination, but, why are kids excited about Santa? 

He brings them gifts. They get presents.
Are we excited about Santa if he doesn’t brings us gifts?

This is why my family reads the entire chapter of Luke 2 on Christmas morning before anything else is done. Before stockings or presents. before coffee for mom or candy for myself, we read the Christmas account in Luke chapter 2 as a family tradition to remind our children that every day, even this Christmas Day, our focus in on Jesus. 

As a parent, if I permit my children to focus on themselves unchecked, they will, and then if/when they will fail, they will then focus on their problems. Their life will be a constant seesaw with a lot of pride,  look how great I am, and depression, look how bad I am.

For a couple years on Monday mornings I taught male inmates at the county prison. The curriculum I taught from was all about preparing the male prisoners to leave their life of bad desires and choices and pursue wise and life-giving desires and choices. 

You could tell a difference between the guys who wanted to be there, who wanted to change, and the guys who didn’t, but they had to be there because it looked good on their parole record if they attended the class.

I would start each class of about 20 prisoners reciting this equation,

Self-deception + Self-reliance = Self-Destruction

This equation runs true every single time. The common denominator is self – and I would tell the guys in prison that they have there choices.

  1. They can sit and think about how they are going to change themselves once they get out.  
  2. They can think how about how they blew it and how much of a loser they are.
  3. They can admit they were powerless and rely on God’s Spirit to bring love and power if they wanted permanent change. 

Your loved ones need to hear this. They are focused on themselves or their problems.

Christmas blows away the misperceptions of God that people have. 

He is a God who comes near to us.
He is a humble God.
He is a God who cares.
He’s not just loving – He is love.

I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far,” says the Lord, who heals them. Isaiah 57:18-19

God knows all about what I’ve done, what I struggle with, what harsh times I’ve gone through and He still wants to heal me and lead me to the way that is free as He comforts me when I am broken. He longs to bring peace into my soul.

If I let Him. If I invite Him to do so.

If I feel guilty, He wants to forgive me.
I I feel lost, He wants to lead me.
If I am overwhelmed or anxious or stress out, He wants to comfort me.
If I can’t sleep – He wants to bring me rest and a peace that transcends rational explanation. 

If I let Him. If I invite Him to do so.

You might not need recovery from addition abuse or need AA or a 12 step program but the principle is the same if you or your loved ones want healing. They have one of three options.

  1. They can focus on themselves: I can do it! 
  2. They can focus on their problems: I can’t do it! 
  3. They can focus on Jesus. He can do it. And will. And does every day. 

We are used to making your own choices. We decide what time to wake up, what to wear, what to eat, what to do at work or at school, what to do at night, where to travel to, what hobbies interest us, what to spend money on. We rule our world. We’re so used to making choices on our own constantly. 

We’ve forgotten how to be dependent on God. As an infant is fully dependent on their mother we need to be fully dependent on God. That’s the ironic message of Jesus’ birth. As dependent and humble God became on two people He created, Joseph and Mary, we need to be that dependent on God daily.

The message of Christmas is this (and what you should tell all of your relationships): 

There is a God who has an unfailing love for you, and He wants to get really close to you. 

If they let Him. If they invite Him to do so.

Open your eyes and your ears and your heart to someone near you who is struggling. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

The One Thing Happy People Have and How to Get It.

Standard

This blog submission is the second piece of a two part series entitled, The Secret to Happiness. Part 1 can be read here.

The truly happy people in your life have one thing (and I don’t mean happy people who are paid to be happy like those who work at Chick Fit A or any other guest services),  but genuinely satisfied and encouraging and kind people all have this one quality:

P E A C E.

They have peace.
In all areas of their life.

They have an internal calmness where they are thankful for the ups and downs. They are continually comfortable no matter what their week’s circumstances throws at them. When things go or don’t go their way, they are at peace. No matter what’s going on around them, they are good. They’re stable. They’re content.

I want that. I want you to have it. Not for a moment. Permanently. Let’s get it.

The most happy people have peace in three specific areas.

(1) Happy People Are At Peace With Themselves.

No matter their temporary successes or their temporary failures, they are at peace. It doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor, young or old, if they attain the goal or not, if they’re married or single, if they have kids or not, if they’re extroverted or introverted – they are comfortable with who they are.

It’s because they have peace with themselves, even in the toughest of roads.

This is who God has made them, they are precious and so loved by Him, that’s enough for them. Nothing else around them, relationships or accomplishments, cannot give them more than God can, and the consequences of their mistakes do not take away from how God views them. His love puts them at peace.

(2) Happy People Are At Peace With Other People.

These happy, peaceful people aren’t the ones who are flying off the handle over every little thing. They’re not whining or yelling when there’s slow wifi or when a waitress messes up an order or sluggish drivers are near them or someone drops the ball at work or when their child spills the juice accidentally or when a loved one doesn’t notice what they’ve done. They’re not freaking out on others.

These people don’t blow up others on Facebook with, You’re wrong. I’m right. You’re an idiot for thinking this way (you know those people). They are bitter and lonely because they are more about what and who they are against than what and who they are for.

Happy people are at peace with others – they are for others. Not against anyone.

It doesn’t mean they never get their heart broken by let down or betrayal, but it does mean that they are able to let it go. The pain doesn’t reside in them.

They don’t walk around looking like someone baptized them in vinegar.

They rejoice in other people’s happiness – they don’t wish misery on others – Oh, you’re going on a cruise ship. How nice. (I hope it goes down).

I don’t think like that but I’ve heard things.

Happy people are good with others – all the time – Good for you. I’m excited for you. I’m elated for you – I know that’s what you were hoping for, this is great.

They don’t hold grudges, they just forgive and move on. They’re at peace. And the reason they can be like this is number 3 –

(3) Happy People Are At Peace With God.

Because of Jesus, they are at peace with God. Forgiven. Shown mercy. Overwhelmed with grace. Adopted as God’s child. Their identity in Christ. Holy Spirit inside. Fruit of the Spirit flowing out of them like a winning slot machine.

Happy people are the ones who have discovered there is a God and they aren’t Him.
And they’re okay with that – they will let God do His thing and they’ll submit to Him. They’ve realized that for all of their attempts at happiness, it has left them wanting more, so they get off the throne and let God satisfy them.

Happy people are at peace with themselves, they’ve let go of their past.
Happy people are at peace with others, they’ve let go of the grudges.
Happy people are at peace with God, they’re just let go and have let Him take over.

What I’m really getting at is this:

Anything That Undercuts Our Peace,
Ultimately Undercuts Our Happiness. 

The unhappy people we know or have become are people without peace. Once the peace with ourselves or with others or with God is damaged, so is our happiness.

Whether it was a circumstance, a relationship, a decision, a season where you made a choice that hurt the relationship with God or with others or with yourself and that meant it hurt your peace, which left you feeling less-than.

If someone were to ask me, Is there anything you’d like a mulligan for in your life? Is there anything you’d want a do-over for?

I would say, How long do you have so I can list the poor decisions? I am full of mistakes, and every single mistake I’ve made, it subverted the peace I had because the mistake damaged my relationship with God and others and with who I am truly created to be.

Our mistakes keep us up at night. They dilute what used to be a trusting relationship, they make us feel like we don’t have a connection with God. They harm our peace and take away our happiness.

In fact, the decisions we’ve made that have harmed others and ourselves is why we’re hesitant to dream big and jump off the cliff and charge that hill because we know the consequences of making a poor decision.

Still, happy people are at peace with God, with others and with themselves.

While God has pursued you through Jesus to reconcile you back to Him, and while some of the humble, loyal people in your life will come toward you to mend things, you’ve got to go after this peace. Make sure you and God, you and others and you and the person in the mirror are at peace with each other.

Then enjoy the happy life.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

 

Do People Who Commit Suicide Go To Heaven Or Hell?

Standard

Suicide doesn’t have any national boundaries, or generational boundaries, or economic boundaries. It’s a phenomenon that transcends beyond any box we try to put it in. 

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
121 suicides occur in America each day. That’s 5 lives gone every hour.
For every suicide that is successful, 25 more are attempted unsuccessfully.
Men die of suicide 3 1/2 times more than women.
The highest rate of suicide is middle aged white males.
White males accounted for 7 out of 10 suicides in 2015.

When it comes to faith and eternal life, this is the question that is asked:    

Do people who commit suicide go to heaven or hell?

Suicide is a form of murder. Murder is a sin. Suicide is not an act of faith. It is an act of doubt that God still has good things in store for the individual in the future. It’s an act of disbelief that God loves them.

This is why the church must be a family that balances grace and truth. 

The more gracious people, (which can lead to shallowness), say those who commit suicide go to heaven because these people are full of love and mercy and want every to be in heaven. 

The more truthful people, (which can lean into legalism), say those who commit suicide go to hell because these people see things in black and white, that wrong is wrong and suicide is giving up on God.

If we say all are going to heaven, that might give someone suicidal permission to end their life believing they’ll be with Jesus, just wanting to leave the pain of this world. If we say all go to hell, that might depress a person even more, ushering them toward ending their life. 

In some reading I was doing earlier this year, a psychiatric professional said that there are two classifications of suicide. There is: 

Irrational Suicide
and there is
Considered Suicide

Irrational suicide is the act by someone with a serious, documented mental illness. 

Considered suicide is the act by someone with no mental illness. They’ve considered the act, they’re weighed the consequences and they still go through with the suicide. 

Does someone who kills themselves go to heaven or hell?

Just to give a couple of clarifiers: 

  1. Only people who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior go to heaven at all. 
  2. Only God truly knows who believes in His Son and who doesn’t. It is up to God who receives eternity with Him or eternity in hell.

But you think about an irrational or a considered suicide – someone who loves Jesus most of their life, serves Him and loves others for decades, becomes ill mentally or depressed along the way and in an impulsive or thought-out moment, they harm themselves and end their life  –  

Heaven or hell?

I would try to answer this question with a question: 

Are people saved eternally by faith or by their last action?

Let’s say a guy in need comes up to you on the street and asks if you’ve got any money to give to him. You say “no” but in reality your pockets are full of cash. The guy in need gets angry and shoots you. You lied to him, you’re dead, it wasn’t repented of, but you were a Christian. Heaven or hell? 

If you’re on the edge of a cliff and someone pushes you off, and on your way falling to your death, you curse the person who pushed you to death, and you’re a Christian, heaven or hell? 

If a man lusts after a woman and that excitement causes a heart attack and he dies, and he was a Christian, heaven or hell?

Is someone saved by their faith in Jesus or by their last action?

Romans 10:9 says that, If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

It’s either you believe in Jesus as Lord and believe He is alive today and can save you from your sins (heaven)  OR you don’t believe in Him (hell). The Bible doesn’t speak of the last action. God’s above time. He’s concerned about you being His child. 

Four years ago I got a call from a Christian couple in their 60’s. The husband asked me to come over because their son, at 2:00AM earlier that morning, in his parents front yard, shot himself in the head, committing suicide.

I still remember seeing the red stain of blood on the front lawn as I walked into the house. 

I had no answers. Nothing to offer. I was in the home for 3 hours and there was more silence than there was speech. The mother was a zombie in her mannerisms. The father just kept asking the same things over and over to me: Is he in heaven Zach? Is my son in heaven? 

Their son professed Jesus as Savior and Lord most of his life. He had even won national Bible competitions, had attended Bible college. Over and over the father asked, Is he in heaven, Zach?

It was a considered suicide. Only God knows what happened to his soul. God’s grace has unknown bounds. 

What were the actions daily? What was his faith like in the weeks, months leading up to his final action? Where was his heart, focused on Jesus or focused on disbelief? 

This is why we’ve got to talk with our loved ones about Jesus every day because they are bombarded with mixed messages from their friends/music/co-workers/culture itself/movies/their own temptations. Leaders, parents, teachers and those with influence have got to keep repeating this: 

Those who take a step toward Jesus find wisdom and life, and those who don’t find foolishness and ruin. 

The instinctive response when life is hurtful or confusing is to wave our finger at God and yell at Him, to ask Him where He is or why doesn’t He love us. When you hear your loved ones accuse God because of how their life is going, that is a step toward depressive illness, a step toward hurting themselves. Remind them of God’s love. Show them God’s love. Pray for them to know God’s unconditional love for them. Getting angry at God is a disservice to the full and good life He wants us to live, the life Jesus came to die and rise from death for us to have. 

God says in Proverbs 8:35 that, “Whoever finds Me finds life and receives favor.” 

God is life. As long as someone is still breathing, they can commit their all to Jesus and be freely forgiven. 

Which brings ultimate peace. 

I want everyone to experience and know the peace that comes from believing in Jesus. No more doubt. No more depressive thoughts. No more disbelief that God is against you. No more lies that no one loves you. Just Jesus. And when there is Jesus, there is life. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Understanding Depression

Standard

If you’ve never had a season of depressive illness or you haven’t battled clinical depression yourself, then it’s difficult to know the depths of despair one goes into. It’s difficult to empathize with they feel, how they think, how they view life. 

Maybe you’ve thought when thinking of someone who is depressed, Why can’t they just snap out of it?

350 million people in the world battle depression.
Women are 70% more likely to be depressed.
11% of teenagers will have a depression disorder by the time they leave home.
16 million Americans battle depression.
30% of college students report feeling depressed.
10% of people over 65 years old in our country are depressed.

The United States loses 80 BILLION dollars a year due to those who are depressed and don’t want to work on the productive level they could. 

50% of those who are diagnosed as depressed do not seek professional help and many battling a depressive illness believe the lie that God is against them, or doesn’t love them, or that He doesn’t exist.

Proverbs 18:14 says, A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Meaning, illness in the physical body comes and goes, but depression sticks around and can feel like an unbearable weight.

The medical world does not view depression as a psychological illness or even a mental or emotional illness. Medicine views depression as a physical issue (in the same category as a broken arm, they speak of a broken spirit). Doctors are able to check the fluid in someone’s spinal system and recognize deficiencies they have that affect the rest of the body and this is based out of the limbic system.

The limbic system is the center part of our brain that controls our emotions and our sleep patterns. It’s where our beliefs are cemented and it’s where we store our memories, so think of the movie INSIDE OUT if you’ve seen it, he entire movie was out of Riley’s limbic system. It affects the entire brain. 

If your favorite sports team wins the championship or you succeed at work or you book a vacation, there will be euphoria in your household and in your life, but after a day or two, your limbic system will get things down to normal when it comes to your mood. 

If you go through a tragedy, some kind of loss, and your makeup is healthy and solid, during and after that tragedy you’ll feel sad. You’ll cry. Eventually your limbic system will get your mood back to normal again. 

It’s when your limbic system is broken that can turn someone into a person their loved ones don’t recognize or remember, when the limbic system is broken, here are some symptoms: 

Erratic sleep patterns/Insomnia
Loss of appetite
Dizziness

Apathy
Heart palpitations

Breathing problems
Loss of affection
Anxiety
Irritability
Permanent sadness

Lethargy

Another verse in the book of Proverbs speaks to what these symptoms do to us: 

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down (Proverbs 12:25).

If someone is always worrying or cemented in sadness, and that’s all they do is worry and feel down, it’s like a lead blanket on their body when they wake up in the morning. They can’t move. 

If someone sad and lethargic and pessimistic, the medical world says it’s probably that their limbic system is broken. 

Someone pumped with drugs can have their limbic system broken. Hormones can break it. Viruses in the body can break it down. 

The medical world says that BY FAR the most lethal attack on our limbic system, which controls our moods, our memories and outlook on life, by far the most danger happens when someone is stressed.

It’s in the incorrect handling of stress that breaks us. 

Here are two things I have seen bring peace in my life and they properly handle the stress thrusted upon me and my family:

Being grateful and applying Scripture in our daily lives gives us peace. 

If you continue to be grateful, not just this month of thankfulness, but every day, it’s a healthy step. 

You get to wake up in this wonderful world, you get to be with your loved ones, you get to work, you get to be generous, you get to live in this country, you get to be a part of church, AND EVEN, you get to go through trials because God is molding you into someone more like Jesus – you are grateful, it will distance you from depressive thinking and those around you who battle depression will notice your positive, joy-filled manner and want what you have. 

AND if you are applying Scripture to your daily life, that means you’re reading the Bible, thinking about what you’ve read, talking with others about God’s Word, memorizing parts of it, and letting it affect your words and actions.

In the Christian worldview, we either walk toward Jesus and have wisdom or we walk toward anything else and have ruin.

When we shift our thinking to thanking God, praying to God, asking God to heal and strengthen us and when we apply His Word to our lives, which includes serving and forgiving others, there is peace that He gives as a gift.

I still get sad. I’m exhausted. I can feel beaten down. I get frustrated. I’ve experienced loss. But I know that when I continue to be grateful and read and apply truth I find in the Bible to my days, depression cannot root into my life. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Zach 

3 Ways to Rid Envy

Standard

Pastor Craig Groeschell says that, The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else. 

At no other point in history than right now has there ever been so much opportunity to compare ourselves to others. It’s mainly because of this blessing and burden culture calls: social media. 

My ability to compare myself to others is so quick so because of social media. With one login I can see what “amazing” day everyone else is having, compared to how I am feeling at that moment. 

You log-on and see your friends out to lunch and you’re like, “Why wasn’t I invited?” 

You see pictures of people on their 4th vacation this year and you’re like, “I can’t even afford to go on a stay-cation. What are they doing on vacation number 4?”

And then there’s that classic picture of when your friend is on vacation and they’re sitting by the beach and they take a picture of their feet and the book they’re reading and they post it for all to see and you look at the picture and you’re like, “You know what, I hate those feet and I hate that book and I hate that beach.”

Envy: an evil, bitter emotion that easily rises up out of us at any moment. 

A verse in the New Testament says this: 

We’re not putting ourselves in a league with those who boast that they’re our superiors. We wouldn’t dare do that. But in all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point. (2 Corinthians 10:12)

Meaning, it’s straight up ridiculous for you to compare yourself to others, and then based on that comparison, to decide if you are good enough. 

We cannot faithfully follow Jesus if we’re always comparing ourselves to someone other than Jesus.

We’re fighting for our parents to notice us more than our siblings. We’re begging our friends or the opposite sex to notice us over others. We want our teachers and professors to see how smart and clever we are over other students. We want our boss and our co-workers to notice our our ideas successes. We want those who follow us on social media to see the great life we’re living. 

And it will never make us complete. 

To rid envy of your life, Jesus’ opinion of you has to matter more than anyone else’s. Pleasing Him has to matter more than pleasing anyone else. 

The reason why envy is damaging is when we compare ourselves to someone else, we either feel superior or we feel inferior.

Those aren’t godly emotions. 

Feeling better than someone or feeling worse than someone does not honor God (nor does it satisfy).

We look at someone and they’re not as put together or as seemingly strong and we think they don’t work as hard as we do or they’re not as likable as we are, not as smart. We think God has blessed us, not them. (We don’t say those things, but we feel them.) We feel superior. 

When we feel inferior is when we struggle with envy and jealousy. You look on instagram and someone else’s husband got them flowers or someone else’s kids made them breakfast in bed or someone else has a date or someone else got married or someone else got pregnant, again, or someone else got a promotion, someone else got to travel. We feel less than based on looking at instagram.

We go from instagram to insta-grumpy. 

Pastor Andy Stanley says, Our problem is we just want to live in the Land of “Er”.

We want to be rich-er, fast-er, bett-er, pretti-er, young-er.

And after we lived in the land of ER, we want to live in the land of “est”. Rich-est, prettiest, smartest, retweeted-est.

But neither being in the land of “Er”, or in the last of “Est”, neither feeling superior or inferior can satisfy the deep longing of our soul, nor do they enable us to live the life we were created to live. 

When the green monster of envy starts rising up in me or seeping out of me, there are a few things I do to help me focus on Jesus and stay in my lane. You can do these too.

Choose to Take a Social Media Fast

Every now and then you should take a break from social media. Some of you will go through the shakes, but it’s good to fast.

If one of the first things you do in the morning is look at facebook or instagram, you are setting yourself to have thoughts of, “I don’t have what they have”. 

I would suggest taking 3-5 days off. 40 straight days would be amazing, but at least choose a handful of days where you can recenter and pray and focus on Jesus and what He’s blessed you with.

Start and Keep a Gratitude Journal

Another thing I do is I write down what I am grateful for. 

This is a family practice. Before family dinner at night we talk about what we are grateful for that we experienced in our day. It calms our hearts after a day of being tempted to think we aren’t that good enough of a spouse, parent, child, student, worker when compared to others. We state aloud what we are sincerely grateful for. 

In addition, I have a running journal, and so does each member of my family, where we’ve written down what we am grateful for. When I am feeling envious or less-than, I go back and look through it and pray through thanking God for the things I’ve written down, even the trials. And when someone in my family is feeling envious or less-than, we get our their gratitude journal and look through what God has blessed us with.

It’s very healthy to list all the things God has given you in your life rather than assuming how much God has given everyone else in their lives that you don’t have. 

One more practice that has helped me suffocate envy in my life: 

Genuinely Celebrate the Success of Others

I have found that if I have someone in my life who pushes my buttons easily, aggravates me, or I’m jealous of them for whatever reason – when I choose to celebrate them,  all of those negative feelings toward them go away. Plus, I get to encourage them, which is a godly action. 

These things help me stay in my lane, keeping my focus on Jesus, not on the person to the left or right of me. If we’re going to compare our life to anyone, let’s make it Jesus’ and if we’re going to have an emotion toward anyone, let’s make it love, not envy.  

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Dealing with Insecurity

Standard

I struggle with insecurity.

That feels so good to admit.

You should try saying it.

I struggle with insecurity and to overcompensate, I become overconfident and try to power up over the massive fears and doubts I have. If that doesn’t work, I then become passive over things and say, If I’m going to be rejected, or if I’m going to fail, then I don’t really care.

But I do care. I’m just insecure.

Here’s a suggested definition of insecurity:

Insecurity: my awareness of the gap between who I am and who I want to be.

We all feel the gap of who we desire to be and who we really are – at work, as a parent, as a friend, as a dreamer.

Here are two forms of insecurity you or your loved ones face every day:

Talent Insecurity

Talent insecurity is when we believe we don’t have what the circumstance requires. We think, I’m not fast enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not creative enough. I’m not spiritual enough. I’m not gifted enough, so therefore I’m not good enough. We allow insecurity to creep into our mindset from who we are in our limited talent compared to who we’d like to be.

Colossians 3:23 says, Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

This verse doesn’t say, whatever you do, use your talents. Instead, it’s about dedication. God wants your heart. He wants to see your effort in working hard for Him. It’s not about giftedness to God, it’s about effort. Too many people foolishly want to attribute someone’s success to ability, saying, They’re so gifted, it comes easy to them. They must’ve got a lucky break, right place right time. 

When The Beatles burst onto the scene in the early 1960’s (which, to all Millennials reading, The Beatles were a band of 4 British musicians), they came into fame and celebrity status so quickly. Seemingly they took over the world in 3 years and everyone was like, They are so mega-talented. It wasn’t always like that. Before all the accolades, the band spent 7 days a week in this dirty strip bar in Germany, 4-6 shows a day in front of 10 people for several years. It was their hard work that eventually paid off. They had talent all along, their earnest effort eventually led to the legacy they gained.

We see someone gain immense success and we automatically assume that it was due to mere talent. People have their gifts, God has given them those gifts, but the gift cannot be utilized without effort and to God, effort trumps talent.

All the Lord wants from you is: You. He wants effort. Not talent, just a willingness to obey. And then God is going to move.

The other type of insecurity we face daily is,

Personal Insecurity

Personal Insecurity is a bit deeper and a bit more potentially destructive than thoughts of talent insecurity. It’s thoughts of, I can’t allow myself to forgive myself. I can’t believe God has accepted me. There’s no way God would want to use me because of what I’ve done. It’s when you see yourself as sinful when, after faith and repentance, God sees you as clean.

I’ve let God down more times than I can count. I’ve broken relationships due to my sin and insecurity. He can’t use me.

I have insecurities. In God’s perfect plan, both of my daughters are adopted. We adopted each daughter right out of the womb, met each girl at the hospital they were born in.

One of my wife’s strong desires is to be pregnant. While there is science and technology which we have tried, I’m the reason why she can’t be pregnant. Her and I together, barring a miracle, have a zero chance to conceive. I have insecurity over that. Even though her and I both know that we couldn’t love anyone more than our daughters, even if a baby came out of my womb. Crosbee Lane and Izzy Cate, our girls, they are us. But I still feel insecurity.

I have other insecurities, and they’re more serious than the big forehead I have.

I work too much. I know many of you work earnestly as well. Working hard sounds good, especially after we talked about God wanting to see our effort alongside our gifts, but my motivation in working too much is laced in insecurity. I work too much because I don’t want anyone to think that I’m lazy. When I forget how God accepts me before I could do anything in terms of effort or success, I want to work to show others how amazing I can be.

I know with my confessions of insecurity people can say, It’s okay. You’re loved,  but the thing about insecurity is that it doesn’t matter what people say. What matters is what’s in your heart.

Too often we have this awareness that we aren’t who we need to be, so how to we fill that awareness with God?

I suggest two practical steps to fighting insecurity:

Accept the flaws and limitations you can’t change.

You have to accept the flaws you can’t change. I’m infertile. I have a past that I can’t change. Accept your current limitations and your past mistakes.

Now, this isn’t saying you should accept that you’re impatient. God can change that. Or that you lust all day, God can change that. Or that you’re greedy, God can change that.

God knows what He’s doing with you. If you were fired from your job or went through a divorce or had an addiction or hurt a loved one, accept it. You’re not a failure, stop worrying, put it to prayer. God knows what He’s doing. You can’t win that game, you can’t get that raise, you can’t find love, you can’t make money, you can’t think like them, you can’t you can’t you can’t. Accept it right now. That means stop the justifications. Own it.

The days of our lives are ordered at no surprise to God. He knows your situation. He knows your upbringing. He knows your past. He knows what you think you can’t do. Your life is in His hands. He’s got the whole world, in His hands. We trust that song as children and then in our pride and anxiety we don’t believe it as adults.

Accept this is how things are. This is the awesome thing about being a Christian. God wants to work through the broken. I can’t get my wife pregnant and yet we have two beautiful daughters.

Romans 8:28 says, We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

When you accept that you can’t change the past, you can’t change the gifts or the limits you have, you can’t change the situation sometimes, and you partner with God, lean on God, wait on God, He will work all things for the good. All of us, if we could go back, we would do the things we did differently, but you can’t go back. Accept His grace and go forward.

In Alcoholics Anonymous they say a prayer, that wasn’t originated by the non-profit, but still effective. It was a prayer originally found in the hallway of a rundown motel in France, inscribed on a wall. The prayer says, God, grant me the serenity (the peace) to accept the things that I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Accept the things you can’t change, change the things you can. Example: Can a husband change that he emotionally hurt his wife in anger last week? Nope. Can he change going forward to not be hurtful toward her? Yep.

Concentrate on God, not the Gap. 

Remember, insecurity is the gap of who I want to be and who I currently am. In order for God to keep growing you, using you, leading you toward the person He has destined you to be, you have to trust Him daily. You cannot veer away from Him. When you veer away from God, you head toward insecurity.

The title of your biography should be I trust the Lord. One chapter is about your childhood and it’s called,  I Trust the Lord. One chapter is about you becoming a follower of Christ and it’s called,  I Trust the Lord. One chapter is about family. One is about work. One is about suffering. One is about moving. One is about disease. One is about dreams. Each chapter is called, I Trust the Lord, I Trust the Lord. And newsflash, if you’re still breathing, God still has chapters to write with you. Relational heartache, job loss, cancer, depression, it could be coming your way. When you are focused on God and not on your insecurity, you can respond to anything headed your way with,  I trust the Lord. 

And that will be a more impartial legacy.

You are loved. Thanks for reading.

Z