Recently, many of my conversations with friends and family have centered around muddy circumstances. They talk about difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. They feel “down” with the weight of dread and fear. Their appetite is poor, or there’s overeating. With no energy, they just want to pull the covers over their head and never get out of bed. These types of feelings invite doom and doubt into our lives and become annoying guests or companions.
If I took a survey, I think it would show that many of us have experienced such feelings. However, far too often, these emotional reactions become part of our daily lives. They turn into suction cups or squatters that hold on and won’t let go. Over time, as you live with them, they begin to feel cozy like your favorite easy chair. They transition into your “go-to place” whenever you need a familiar touch.
Today’s environment is a breeding ground for thoughts of hopelessness and doubt. The most common term for these types of responses is depression—also known as sadness, gloom, sorrow, melancholy, and bitterness. Its silent partner, oppression, operates in the mind and exercises control over the person. It is a vicious cycle.
Certain triggers make us vulnerable to depression, such as extreme financial difficulty, loss of a job, illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, stress, feelings of no purpose, or drugs (self-induced or medically prescribed). In addition, there can be a partial hereditary trigger passed to us by one or more parents. Or, in chronic cases, you just feel like being depressed.
Several people in the Bible had every reason to be depressed:
Despite these bitter and seemingly hopeless and endless situations, these courageous forerunners never became depressed. Instead, their instruments of success were prayer, joy, and praise/singing.
Humans seem to have such difficulty using these powerful gifts. Yet, some animals use them every day. For example, humpback whales leap 50 feet into the air to express their joy and then sing tunes below the surface of the water. Birds sing every day. Cats purr when they are happy.
When you are joyful, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are without sadness, but it is like a push on the life-swing that sends you into the air with a smile on your face. That kind of joy will always move depression.
The greatest expressions of joy can be seen in babies. When they are loved, fed, and wear dry diapers, they lift their legs into the air and kick while laughing with joy. Sometimes, before they learn to walk, they scoot along the floor, squealing with delight in being able to independently get from one spot to another. When they begin to take their first steps, as wobbly as they may be, they laugh and smile while mommy holds out her arms to catch them.
Prayer is the freedom to express your true self to God. This includes your weaknesses, your fears, and any other concerns you have. He knows you better than you know yourself, and He is no respecter of persons. Male, female, child, ordinary person, businessperson, or leader are all loved by Him.
The final instrument for gaining success over depression is you. In reality, the responsible person for your mental and spiritual well-being is always you. Challenging? Yes. But the Good Shepherd is standing by to rescue whenever you need Him. (Psalm23)
Did you ever wonder why so much has been written about love since human existence? Famous authors on this topic, among others, include philosophers, clerics, monks, preachers, leaders, artists, painters, writers, and film producers.
Just as numerous as those who write about love are the terms used to define it: feelings, sentiment, compassion, empathy, suffering, philanthropy, etc.
People are constantly searching for love, and the mixture of books and films on the topic has made their search confusing and false. The power of love has been so diluted that it is easy to substitute it with counterfeit feelings and emotions.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I would rather die than to live without…”, or I would rather die than give up…”, or “I want someone who is compatible with my feelings and the things I do.” These are a few of the ways people express their love for something or someone and impersonate deep-rooted feelings that may bring pleasure and affection, but they are not necessarily genuine love.
True love does not always fit the profile that some famous person or author has described as love. True love may not look pretty or handsome or look like your desire. True love may not always have the same common interests, or like the same activities, or have the same personality as you. In fact, interests and tastes have a way of changing over time. Will you still love them? True love will experience the flaws and inadequacies that are present in each of us. Will you still love despite human imperfections?
One of the major flaws of a counterfeit love is packaged in outward appearance. Suppose a person who is smelly, dirty, and hungry approaches you or sits next to you. How do you react? What if a person looks different than you—he or she has slanted eyes, a big nose, thick lips, wears a hijab (headscarf), speaks a different language? Perhaps you treat the person who empties your trash cans at work as if he or she were a leper, but you find it easy to speak to the person in the suit. Suppose the clerk at the grocery store is uncomfortably rude to you, an attitude that leaves much to be desired. Can you get past this and leave saying something pleasant like, “Have a great/blessed day.” The power of love will flow.
The power of genuine love rests in the fact that it is not based on outward appearance or human virtue. Throughout human existence, we have shown we are seriously lacking in this area. Moses reminded the children of Israel about their consistent disloyalty to God. (Deuteronomy 9:4-6) Despite their unfaithfulness, God expressed His loyalty to them by His everlasting love—protecting them, guiding them, feeding, and clothing them.
Genuine love is not a person. It is not a feeling (although feelings may be present), it’s not sex, it’s not an expression of “I love you” or even, “Will you marry me?”
Genuine love is the gift of God without prejudice. He views us not as we are, but on His value of mankind and what each person may become through faith in Him. True, deep-rooted love is within each heart placed there by the nature of God. First, He created us, and then He blew His breath into us (the true origin of CPR), giving us life.
We allow our minds to be filled daily with words that bring the entire family of depression and all of its relatives into our lives. Maybe we should pause and ask, who is winning the battle against evil? Love is our greatest weapon and the most powerful force against the darkness that is running rampant.
Sadly, we have downgraded love to feelings and emotions—all of which involve our senses, but only a small part of our hearts. It is time for us to focus on genuine love that has the power to overcome any challenge, malice, hatefulness, antagonistic situation, or unexpected event.
We all recognize that we have different types of temperaments and personalities. Some of us tend to be analytical and critical. Others are more creative, and some are fun-loving and undisciplined. Whatever our personality, it is usually at the root of the choices we make.
Moral decisions, spiritual decisions, personal decisions, political decisions are among the assortment of choices we make. Since choice is an active expression of our will, with every one we make, it includes a partner that is tied to us. It is known as “responsibility.”
Responsibility is the “hitch in the git-a-long” in the choices we make.
Far too often, we scapegoat and blame others for our choices. As adults, we frequently hold on to choices that blame our parents rather than making a choice to accept their imperfections, forgive them, and move forward in our life journey. Instead, we hold onto them like a “binky” resulting in long-term effects on our physical or mental well-being.
We all make choices, and I am certain we intend to choose what leads to a positive result. But in many instances, there is not always a happy ending. Whether the choice was positive or negative, the responsibility for the action rests with the person who made the choice. Sometimes there are influences from others. Nevertheless, we are the responsible party, and we must deal with the consequences.
In case we forget, the Bible is filled with famous people who made negative choices: Adam and Eve, Abraham, Solomon, Saul, David, Peter, etc. All of whom had to deal with the outcomes of their choices. Some of the consequences were pretty harsh.
In most cases, when choices are made, responsibility is inescapable:
God reminds us that we should trust in Him when we make choices. (Proverbs 3:5-6) He has a life purpose for each of us, and He wants us to have “good success.” (Joshua 1:8) Avoid continually depending upon our human wisdom and secular standards as our tools for making positive choices.
To ensure positive results, acknowledge Him in all you do. If you make a choice that you are not happy with, take responsibility, seek wisdom and guidance from the Lord, and continue forward in your life journey. It will be an exciting trip!