Let the Warrior Within Arise

Trembling before the obstacles,

While adversaries advance;

Depression, Fear, Failure, the like —

Make up the foreboding circumference.

The taunts, the laughter, the endless lies

That you would be better off dead;

The mockery shatters the silence,

And keeps echoing inside your head.

Oh timid one, do not cave to the voices,

But let the Warrior within arise;

Be armed with the Armor, held securely by Truth,

And know your Help comes from on high!

Know that defeat is not your destiny,

Rather, Victory is to be your fate;

Lift high His banner, sound loud His truth,

Each lie annihilate!

Behold, your comrades stand beside,

Hope to your left, and Faith on your right;

Just when it seems that all is darkness,

You’ll find that the Lord remains your Light!

Rise up, oh mighty Warrior,

Fixate on Him who is Faithful and True —

Your Defender, your Shield, your God

Who securely watches over you!

Though your enemies vehemently advance,

In Christ, Warrior, take your stand;

And if you stumble e’en seven times,

He will mightily uphold you in His hand!

~ G.P.

The Crucible of Taking Ownership

The issue of accountability might seem unrelated to depression, but bear with me. Shifting and deflecting blame is a universal human tendency. Most people will readily admit that everyone has faults, but owning up to personal faults is not acknowledged so willingly. The problem with blame-shifting is many people’s lives and relationships remain fragmented and broken. Only when genuine ownership and forgiveness (or repentance) take place, can healing and growth take place.

We read that the proneness to blame, versus taking ownership, occurs very soon after the first couple partook of the forbidden fruit:

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ~ Genesis 3:9-13 (ESV)

God asks the man if he ate of the forbidden fruit. The man blames God for making the woman, then blamed the woman for giving him the fruit to eat (as if she made him eat). God then turns and questions the woman. She blames the serpent for deceiving her.

Neither person humbly acknowledged their disobedience to God’s clear instructions. Instead, they became defensive and deflected blame. One can only wonder what would have happened had they humbly confessed. Certainly there would still have been consequences, but would the world know the depths of suffering it knows? I suppose we will never know.

Modern American society encourages blame-shifting, deflection, and “victim mentality.” We want to blame our parents, teachers, the “system,” and anything else for our poor and foolish decisions. Oh, many of the hurts are real, for sure. These might, indeed, make progress difficult. However, none of these can force us to continue to make poor decisions.

Some people remain in depression, in part, because they choose to curse the day they were born, blame others for their miseries, and refuse to let go of the past in order to move ahead in the present.

Sometimes real hurts happen to persons. Dealing with this requires honesty about the pain; however, one cannot blame anyone for their own choice to refuse to get better. On the other hand, some people want to blame the “system” or others for their own poor decisions. No one else is to bear the blame if an individual refuses to put the work involved to get to where they want to be.

If you’re dealing with depression, these words are certainly not intended to add to your hurting nor are they to ignore any genuine hurts. However, take an honest inventory: are some of your woes your own doing? Regardless what others might have or might not have done, they are not responsible for your present decisions. Someone’s actions may have angered you, but you choose to remain angry or not. Someone might have deeply wounded you, but you make the choice to remain crippled or not. You might not be in a position to move ahead at this time, but no one else is responsible how you view and respond to today’s circumstances.

Hurts hurt, no doubt about it. Yet, we do not have to be defined, hindered, or paralyzed by them. To forgive, let go, and move on is each person’s choice to make alone. No one can make this choice for us. Taking ownership is difficult, but necessary. Mind you, doing so will not necessarily take away the hurt or depression; however, it will begin paving the path leading to freedom and living.

“But they don’t deserve forgiveness!” some will defy. No, I do not suppose they do. Then again, none of us do. “But I can’t forgive!” some will argue. Pray! Ask God for the willingness and help to forgive. And remember, forgiveness has little to do with others but more to do with you. Forgive, because you are worth it!

Remembering the Cross When We Hurt

In our hurts, pain, broken-heartedness, loneliness, etc., we can feel rather isolated—even abandoned by God. However, feelings do not necessarily reflect reality. When we are going through grief or depression, I dare to say our feelings rarely reflect reality. During these times our feelings will often scream that we are forsaken, God has left us to writhe and die in our pain and misery—alone. But this is not the case at all, although our feelings will defiantly say otherwise.

One of the things that has always amazed me about the Gospel message is God has always “played by the rules.” Although He is God and sinless, He came into our fallen world as a Man, and experienced fully the effects of a world ravaged by sin. Being God, could He not have changed the rules for Himself?   Could He not have bypassed human experience in a fallen and broken world? But He did not, because He is a God of truth and faithfulness. Therefore, He experienced poverty, loneliness, rejection, racism, betrayal, grief, sorrow, pain, stress, disappointment, injustice, etc.

The writer of Hebrews states:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ 4:14-16

Some time ago I wrote the following song:

He Is Still Worthy of Praise

Even when storms rob us of sunshine,

    And our laughter turns to cries;

Even when our nights are the darkest,

    And there are no stars in our skies…

Bridge:

We look to Christ,

    The Holy One who cares;

In brokenness,

    We worship Him through tears…

Chorus 1:

(For) He is still worthy of praise;

He is still worthy of honor;

He is still worthy of worship;

He is still worthy of all!

(Repeat)

Even when our minds are afflicted,

    And questions scream with rage;

And our hearts are so deeply wounded,

    Feeling forsaken in some cage…

Bridge:

We look to Christ,

    And bend our knees in dust.

In spite of pain,

    We sing to Him with trust…

(repeat Chorus 1)

Through loneliness and friendlessness,

Through deep darkness and through sickness;

Through failure and tears, through raging fears;

Through broken dreams, and angry screams …

Through temptations, and frustrations;

Through broken-hearts, and worlds torn apart;

Through death of loved ones, when grief overcomes –

Through all the loss, we remember His Cross!

Even when we face disappointments,

    When dreams are smashed on rocks,

And we watch them sink under waters,

    As our hearts are crushed on the docks.

Bridge:

We bow our souls,

    And cannot even speak.

We want to run,

    We want to die,

    Yet to our God we cry … and we seek …

(repeat Chorus 1)

Chorus 2:

God You are worthy of praise;

You are still worthy of honor;

You are still worthy of worship;

Jesus, You’re worthy of all!

You are still worthy of praise;

You are still worthy of honor;

You are still worthy of worship;

Jesus, You’re worthy of all!

… Through all the loss, we remember Your Cross …

Jesus, You’re worthy of praise.

(Words & music by Geno Pyse)

Indeed, when we are going through hurts and loss, may we remember the cross. You are loved, and you are not forgotten. Your pain serves a greater purpose, if you will but continue to trust even though nothing seems to make sense.

Stranger In a Strange Land (The Pastor and Depression)

Many Christians are familiar with the words “The world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” The follower of Christ recognizes he is but a stranger in a strange land, and his customs are different than those of the “natives.”

Strangely, the sentiment “stranger in a strange land” can be just as applicable to many pastors in their churches. The loneliness and sense of isolation a pastor can experience can be overwhelming. When parishioners are wounded in spiritual battles, they can talk to their pastor (or should be able to). But when a pastor is wounded in battle, where can he go? Some will argue, “Well, he is to go to the Lord!” But this is to be said of the parishioners as well, is it not? Often,  when a parishioner is discouraged, weak, or falls, the attitude is, “to err is human.” When a pastor experiences these, it seems to be scandalous.

The life of a pastor is a strange thing. To him come attacks from all sides. He deals with the ridicule and persecution from the world. He fights through the bombardment of accusations and lies from the evil one. He faces attacks, slander, and resistance from those he is trying to lead—and some of the most vicious comes from those he and his family have ministered to. Lastly, but certainly not least, he receives  the stern rebukes from the Lord after foolish decisions or words.

For many pastors, genuine friends are few. Often people feel awkward and hindered when the pastor is around. Believe me, a pastor feels this awkwardness too. He can usually sense when others feel uncomfortable around him or if there is some animosity against him. The pastor is human. He desires—and needs—friendship too, but sometimes is denied this luxury. But what about other pastors? Again, pastors are human. The realm of pastors can remind one of days in high school. There can be pride and fellowship circles, and if one does not fit in that circle or cannot be used as a stepping stone, such a person can be left to struggle alone. This is neither a lie nor exaggeration. This includes many pastors of small churches, as well as pastors of larger churches who must continue certain facades.

What about finances? Many churches require a formal education of their pastors, and for many, an associate or bachelor degree from a respected Bible college is not enough. Even a masters degree is not enough to many churches. Rather, some churches require at least a Master of Divinity, if not a doctorate degree. Such an education is neither free, nor is it cheap. Yet, many churches do not pay adequately. Then consider how parishioners want to enjoy all their toys and providing nice things for their families; however, a pastor is considered “greedy for gain” when he wants nice things for his family. A pastor can put in 60+ hours a week (most people are unaware of all a pastor does), and must still be on call 24/7. This often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

What about shattered hopes and broken dreams. I will venture to say most men who truly go into ministry with a true desire for people to come to know the Lord and for Christ to be glorified (this is not every minister’s desire) also go with a hope to see growth and revivals. This is neither vain hope or vain glory. However, what many pastors see are stubborn people quite content with their traditions, status quo, and sins. Try to touch these idols and a pastor can have hell to pay. But these are God’s people, right? Only God knows. What I do know is this: a pastor is taught (and teaches) God hears our prayers; that “love changes everything”; and the Word of the Lord will not return void. The pastor finds out the hard way that sometimes God says, “No.” Love does not change persons who do not want to change or give up their idols. Sometimes the Word of the Lord seems to be spoken into an abyss. These only chip at the original hopes and dreams. What shatters them, however, is to be slandered, attacked, and betrayed by persons who claim to be people of God.

I once read the following concerning today’s pastors:

  • 97% have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by trusted friends.
  • 70% battle depression.
  • 80% feel discouraged.
  • 94% of pastors’ families feel the pressure of ministry.
  • 78% have no close friends.
  • 90% report working 55-75 hours per week.
  • Only 10% will retire from the pastorate.
  • 1,500 quit the pastorate every month.

Is it any wonder why there has been an increase in suicides amongst pastors over the last several years?

I had been a pastor (I still am, just not of a church). I know what I am talking about. I know the experience of loneliness, attacks, false accusations, and betrayals. I know what it is like to have my family wounded in the process. I would not wish any of what I have experienced on another. Yes, I know the hurt and anger. I know what it is like to resent the church. To this day I have little patience for those who sit on their high horses questioning the authenticity of a pastor’s calling who has not the stomach for church politics and betrayals. Such persons know nothing of what they so confidently allow to come vomiting out of their mouths. Truly, I did not expect ministry to be easy; however, my grave mistake was I thought my greatest antagonists would come from outside the church, not from within. Oh, how I was wrong.

I lot of water has passed under the bridge since I was in the pastorate. I have let go of the bitterness, but it took a lot of time to let go and to heal. As I write this, I do remember some of the hurts. I remember having to push aside my own losses, not taking the time to grieve, in order to minister to others. Only to later be kicked in the teeth.

Perhaps you are a pastor dealing with the junk I have been writing about. You are presently a “stranger in a strange land.” I do not  counsel you to leave or to stay. This is between you and the Lord. For me, I had to resign from the pastorate, otherwise my family would have been shattered into pieces. With this said, I will say: DO NOT SACRIFICE YOUR FAMILY FOR THE SAKE OF A CONGREGATION!!! Your priority is your family first, then the church, not vice versa. Your wife and children need you too. Do not forsake them. Yes, there are emergencies when the church needs you; however, there are many times you must either say “no” or “wait” to parishioners for the sake of your family.

Perhaps you are a pastor who is battling depression. Please know that you are not alone. Although you feel as if God is a billion miles away and has given up on you, He is ever near and loves you always.

Perhaps you are having suicidal thoughts, and thinking your family would be better off without you. NO!!! HEAVENS NO!!! Such lies are straight from the pits of hell! Oh, may God shine His light in your darkness! Oh, please, Lord!!!

Oh dear one, I know what it is like to encounter such despair. If you are facing such despair, talk to a trusted friend. Get help. There is no shame in this. If need be, feel free to email me at gpproclamation@yahoo.com. I cannot promise you a wealth of wisdom, but I have experienced the kind of darkness you are facing. As difficult as it might be to believe, know that you are loved and have incredible worth. God created you for a purpose. And remember this: you were called and saved by grace, these are sustained by grace, and will always be by grace!

Perhaps you are not a pastor. Praise God! It is a most honorable calling, but not a glorious one. Pray for your pastor. Honor him. Encourage him. Just as surely as every pastor will give account for how he lead and fed the flock, so surely will each parishioner give account for the way he slandered, discouraged, and wounded the very ones God had placed over him. It is a dangerous thing for a pastor to stray from the Word of God and teach otherwise. But it is just as dangerous for a parishioner to rebel against a pastor who IS teaching the Word of God faithfully! Do you think God will turn a blind eye to such stubbornness and insolence?

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. ~ 1 Timothy 5:17

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ~ Hebrews 13:17

How does it benefit anyone to make a pastor’s work more difficult than it already is, or to silently “kill” the very one who seeks to minister to you and your family? If, indeed, your pastor is a godly man, albeit imperfect, but faithfully teaching God’s Word; and if you are constantly resisting him and making his work difficult; you might want to consider that you may be a weed in God’s garden. If this is the case, you need to repent. Otherwise, in due time, God will pluck you and cast you in the fire.

You Are Not Alone

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Light in the Darkness for Weary Travelers

Depression is a strange terrain. Perhaps you are there now. For me, when I was in the depths of my depression, the feelings of loneliness bit like a frigid Minnesota winter night, although people could be all around me. Like the old Casper, the Friendly Ghost cartoons, I desired to connect with others but could not. At times, I felt as though I was literally invisible.

As such, crazy thoughts would begin to churn in my mind like clothes in a dryer, going round and round. “Why am I here? Does my life really matter? Would anyone really miss me if I was gone? Would anyone even notice?” Oh, believe me, there were plenty of seemingly legitimate reasons why my life did not matter, etc. I have known the sting of betrayal, and the wounds of being forsaken by some.

I felt like screaming when persons would say things like, “I know how you feel,” because they did not know. They had no idea what I was feeling. I knew some meant well, but their words were like salt in an opened wound. I felt as though I was existing in the realm of the dead—not dead, but not living either.

When I was in the depths of my depression, I felt as though I was in a deep pit, surrounded by darkness.  I could not climb out of it. I felt forsaken by people and by God. During this time I experienced a lot of confusion, fear, and anger. Honestly, I just wanted the Lord to kill me and take me home. “I came. I tried. I failed. Kill me now, Lord.”

How does a person get to such a place? There is no single reason for depression. Perhaps you can relate to the feelings of the prophet Elijah:

And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers …. I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” ~ 1 Kings 19:4, 14 (ESV)

Perhaps you are experiencing depression right now. I am not going to criticize you or accuse you of lacking faith. I am not going to tell you I know how you feel, because I do not. I only know how I felt, and it was a hellish experience that I do not wish upon anyone. What I will say is this: I know the loneliness can  be crushing, like a ten ton boulder. Perhaps you are surrounded by a deep darkness. May the words from the prophet Micah be of hope for you:

I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light…. I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. ~ Micah 7-8 (CEV)

You might be sitting in a “dark night of the soul,” but the light of the Lord has not been extinguished. At a coming hour His radiance will be bursting at dawn. Perhaps God seems but a flickering star a billion miles away—even so, His presence surrounds you, whether you “feel” it or not. And know that you are loved and needed. By your parents, your spouse, your child(ren), your pet(s).

While you might feel alone in this experience, know that there are others experiencing something similar. Elijah felt as though he was alone, but God tells the prophet of seven thousand others, like himself, had not bowed their knees to Baal (see 1 Kings 19:18).

I know the feelings are horrible. You might feel embarrassed for feeling this way, but you are simply feeling your humanity in a fallen world. I know this blog is not a cure for depression; however, I hope you will know that you are not alone. I might not be by your side, but please know I am with you in spirit. Know that God is sending people to you, though even strangers they might be, to give a warm smile. This might seem insignificant, but many of these persons are struggling with similar feelings. Most importantly, God is with you. His presence is not dependent on your faith or feelings. Continue to talk to Him, regardless if He seems absent (He is not). Continue to pour your heart to Him. In due time, as He did with Micah, he will lead you to the light.

I hope God will use this blog to give you strength to fight through another day; and regardless of your feelings, you are not alone.

Our High Priest and Unnecessary, Distracting, and (the) Wrong Questions

I enjoy studying and discussing theology, provided the discussion is edifying. Theology can raise a lot of questions—some very difficult ones. Note, many of our questions must remain unanswered. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9, ESV). God is perfect in holiness, love, justice, and all His ways. Will we choose to trust Him?

Sometimes our questions of curiosity are simply irrelevant (i.e., the classic “Can God make a rock so big He can’t move?”). However, some of our questions are distracting to more important ones. For example, Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Sometimes the question—even debate—arises, “Could Jesus have sinned?” The differing answers go back and forth. The question is not insignificant, but neither is it the most important. Furthermore, it distracts from the wonderful truths being revealed. Two more important questions are: Did Jesus sin? And can He truly sympathize with us when we struggle with our sinfulness? Could He have sinned? Some say yes, others say no. However, what we do know is He was genuinely tempted—therefore, He can sympathize—but He did not sin. Good thing! Otherwise we would not have a Savior.

Could Jesus have sinned? Does He know what it is like to be tempted with the same sins as I am? Maybe, maybe not. What I know with utmost certainty is I can—and do—sin, and I have High Priest and Savior who can sympathize with me—and you. 

You and I will continue to have questions, but may we learn to ask the right questions, instead of being distracted by the unnecessary and wrong ones.