Reading: Psalms 22:1-18
We talk about the end of days as if it were a good thing. Perhaps we envision a smooth transition from the times we are living into the Kingdom of God. Some of this thinking probably comes because we really do not see how corrupt the days we live in are. In our minds society isn’t that bad, the world is a good place to live, and most people are decent.
But the reality of it is that IF these are the end of days, the bible tells us that they will pass with a LOUD noise. I don’t really know all the details of what lays ahead for the people of this earth, but from the things I see happening around us right now the end is not a time any person of God would want to live through.
We can see the growing hatred of Israel and how nations gather together against it. We can see the thirst and lust for power and control in both the political and religious worlds. We can see turmoil in the nation we live in and are witnessing firsthand the collapse of society.
And there are forces at work in the world around us whose main goal is to turn every one of us into an unbeliever. They would love nothing more than for each of us to renounce our religion. And don’t stand in their way because they will seek to make your life miserable and destroy you.
As it is written, we wrestle not against flesh and blood but we wrestle against principalities, we wrestle against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
My advice to you is not to become involved in the politics, especially in the politics of this country. Try not to take any sides with either political party. If you do you will find yourself just becoming more frustrated. If you do want to talk about the politics of the world be very aware of whom your audience is.
The world we live in right now is dramatically different than the world we lived in 30 years ago. Most people around us feel life has improved, that society has progressed and we are now living in a better age. The internet, TV and social media bring the world around us to us instantly. We would be lost without our phones, without our constant feed to the outside world. We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves without Facebook, twitter and our television shows and YouTube videos.
It’s no wonder that going to Church on Sunday mornings is becoming a thing of the past for many people. It doesn’t quite fit in with the modern age we live in. It’s an outdated custom that few find useful. We ourselves might struggle sometime to find the motivation to get out of bed, drive to meeting and to walk through the front door. And as our numbers dwindle it is easy to become even more discouraged.
A few weeks ago I started to have pains in my chest. I could feel a lot of pressure and it was very painful. It did not matter what position I was in, I could not sit, I could not stand, and I could not lie down. Nothing I did helped the pain and I didn’t know what to do. I became even more concerned when I threw up 3 times into the kitchen sink. I decided then that it was time to go to the emergency room. So I cleaned up the mess in the sink and had Gayle drive me to the Hospital.
We walked into the emergency room, and of course no one is around. We rang the bell a couple of times and finally the receptionist came out. It was sort of comical; I was standing there clutching my chest thinking I was having a heart attack while the receptionist went through a bunch of general question. Finally a nurse came to get me and brought me to one of the examination rooms. For the next 6 hours I had all sorts of tests that pretty much ruled out a heart attack and we think that I was having a gallbladder attack instead. But it also could have just been a bad case of heartburn. Either way the pain eventually went away on its own.
It was a scary moment, not knowing what was happening. But we believe God is in control of all things, so I am left to wonder what the purpose of all that pain was?
At some point in our life we realize that we aren’t immune from pain like this. We aren’t immune from getting the cold and flu. We aren’t immune from getting bumps and bruises. These things happen to us all the time and are so common that we usually don’t raise an eyebrow when a brother or sister is sick. Those things happen to all of us.
There are other things that happen to us that we aren’t real comfortable in admitting. Things that we feel a servant of God should not be experiencing. Things we feel embarrassed and ashamed about. One of those things is depression. Depression is something that we rarely talk about even though I am sure that every single one of us (from the old to the young) has dealt with it or is currently dealing with it. But there is stigma about it. The feeling is that if we are depressed we must not be a good servant of God, we must not have enough faith. We can view depression as being a sign of a weak and faithless person.
But depression affects every one of us. It affects the weak, it affects the strong. Elijah was strong in faith and yet he became depressed. He was so depressed that he even prayed to God that he might just die. Jonah was a servant of God, but he became so depressed that he pleaded with God to just take his life away and let him die.
Depression doesn’t always affect people the same way and there are many different types and symptoms of depression. These include feeling sad, empty, and hopeless. You could have frustration, be irritable. You could have a loss of interest in normal day to day activities. You could have sleep issues. Not enough sleep or maybe getting too much. Depression can make you tired, and lack the energy to even do small things. Depression can lead to weight loss. It can also lead to weight gain. Depression can make you restless, can affect your thinking. It can make you feel worthless or just filled with guilt. Depression can make it hard to forget about past failures in your life and it can lead you to blame yourself for all sorts of things. Depression can affect you physically and lead to things like back pain or headaches.
The bible doesn’t go into details, but I think there were times when even Jesus became depressed. When he felt sad, frustrated and even questioned whether he was making a difference or not. For example, it must have been very difficult for him the day that the bible says “many of His disciples turned away and no longer walked with Him.”. He had spent so much time and energy teaching them and trying to give them a greater understanding of the purpose of God, and they became offended by something he said. And all that work, all that time and energy just walked away and left him there.
That had to have been a tough thing for him. It would have been difficult for any of us. You can see a little bit of how he must have felt by what he says to the ones that didn’t go. He asked them, do you want to leave too?
That question says a lot about what He must have felt when all those people just left him. We strive so hard to be accepted by the people around us. But how would we like to be despised and rejected? To be hated, to be excluded. He was hated, he was excluded. He was despised and rejected of men. He was branded a man of sorrows. It says that He was very familiar with grief.
He spent days and nights crying tears out. He spent time all by himself dealing with the sadness inside. He felt like an outcast just about everywhere he went. People hated him. People wanted him dead.
He was worn, he was weary, he was frustrated, and he was tired. He could have given up. He could have just run away some place and hid. But he didn’t run away and he faced the pain head on. He pushed aside his own feelings and desire and did the thing his Father wanted him to do. You would think that there could have been a less painful way. You would think that the God of the universe could have come up with some other way to atone for the sins of men. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to make any sense to us.
It isn’t any secret that we fail. As hard as we try sometimes we usually end up back in the same dark places. It’s depressing to constantly feel inadequate. We think religious people should be perfect, without any fault, always happy, always smiling. If that were the case there would be no need of a sacrifice.
Have you ever done anything you feel embarrassed and ashamed about? Have you ever felt like just running away and hiding? Have you ever felt that way and then have one of your parents, or your spouse, or your children or even a friend come up to you when you’re feeling that way and put their hands around you and hug you? That hug feels so good.
And that is what the Father is doing to us right now. He knows we are feeling down, He knows that we have regrets. He knows that we sometimes just feel like hiding in a dark place. So He comes up to us and puts His hands around us and gives us this bread to eat and gives us this cup to drink. He wants us to be there. He wants us to have a better life with His son. He is fighting for us every day of our life.
And just to make sure that we can feel His love, to make sure we actually can feel Him hugging us, he gives to us the people in our life that we can turn to for comfort. Sometimes we have to ask; sometimes we have to let them know. But they are there for us and if we ask they will come, sit by our side, put their arm around us and let us know that we are loved.
We weren’t there when they crucified the Lord. To have stood by the cross and see him bleeding and to hear him struggling to breath would have been difficult for his closest of friends. His mother must have struggled with deep pain inside as she was helpless to give him any comfort. She would have wanted to go up to him and just wrap her hands around him and hug him at moment. But she could not. Certainly the Father wanted to reach down and help him too.
It was the hardest thing that our God would ever do to stand by and to hear the cries of his child, and to watch him struggle and to not be able to comfort him. If you want to know how much the Father loves you all you have to do is measure how hard it was for Him to stand by while they crucified the child He loved. It was unbearable; it is something that any parent would have struggled with. It was so hard that He had to darken the sky, and the sun refused to shine.
Yes, sometimes God does use the natural things around us to show how He is feeling. And that is why we should be somewhat concerned by what is happening with the weather. We see the extreme heat and the extreme cold, we see the dryness, we see the wetness, and we see the storms, fires and earthquakes. All these things show that we are close to the end. God is giving us signs that its time.
These are the days when the angels of God are walking about the earth and placing a mark on those that they find are waiting for the Lord. They come into our homes and they watch and they listen to the things we do. They can see our depression. They can hear our tears. They take note.
These are 3 things to keep in mind about depression:
First, we are not alone. It is common, everyone gets depressed. You may think that you are alone. You may think that no one knows what you’re feeling inside. But we all have been there in some way. The struggles may be different for each of us, but the effects are the same. This is one reason we get together so often, because we can find strength in numbers. It’s good to be with others who we can turn to for strength when we feel weak. Each of us will have strong days and each of us will have days we feel weak. Let the strong help the weak and let the weak gain comfort from the strong.
Second, Life is meant to be painful. Life is meant to be hard. That is by design. That is how we learn and grow. We are like the ground that with cursed. Every day we battle against the thorns and thistles that want to take over our minds. It’s painful and it’s a lot of work to weed those thoughts and feelings out of our thoughts. We will struggle with depression and other feelings. We will have days where we don’t even want to get out of bed. Think of Jacob who buried the woman he loved at an early age. Think of how much he must have missed her and how hard it was for him to get out of bed every day to go on.
The third thing to keep in mind is that the depression will end. Sure it doesn’t feel like it will and we may feel that we are forever cursed. We can ask our self if anything is worth the pain we are going through. Like Elijah and like Jonah we may just want to die. But both Elijah and Jonah went on to see better days. As desperate as we may feel, as discouraged as we may be, as hopeless as we may think it is. Hold on, because there is a better time coming. In the same way the Father raised up Jesus to a new life, each of us will be raised up to live in a world that does not even know what depression is.
But for now we meet here once again and think about the bread and cup on the table before us.
Were you there when they crucified the Lord?
Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Where you there when the sun refused to shine?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble.