Depressed and Thankful: 6 Ways to Find Joy

How can we possibly be thankful when we are depressed? And how can we be joyful when there is so much in our world to be depressed about these days? This kind of depression is different from clinical depression, which is a constant sense of hopelessness and despair, and it may be difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. I don’t think it matters what type of depression we have, it still makes life difficult. Today’s post about how to hold on to our joy during times of depression is from Revive Our Hearts. I pray it blesses all of us.

Depressed and Thankful:
6 Ways to Find Joy

By Stacy Reaoch

It was only about a year into our marriage when I had my first bout with mild depression. And it didn’t make sense to me. I finally was married to the man of my dreams. I had landed my first teaching job. We had started a new life together and were making new friends. But for whatever reason, my heart was downcast. Life felt overwhelming, like I wanted to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed for the day.

The constant sadness in my heart finally led me to go to a doctor to share how I’d been feeling. Instead of quickly writing a prescription, my physician wisely talked through the major life changes I had experienced in the last twelve months—college graduation, moving away from family, marriage, my first real job—and assured me that my roller-coaster emotions were normal in light of all I had experienced in one year.

Eventually, I came out of that gray fogginess, but over the years of my adult life there have been other times where I’ve started to slide into the pit of despair. A melancholy side to my personality makes me prone to see the glass as half empty. I realize that for many individuals, medication is truly necessary. But the weapon that has made the most difference in my life in fighting depression, and something we can all benefit from, is gratitude.

Worship Grows in Gratitude

In Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s excellent book Choosing Gratitude, she makes the point that we are either whining or worshiping. Our natural, sinful state makes us prone to see what we lack, what we don’t have, and what’s gone wrong in our lives.

Complaining is often my default response. Just the other day I noticed how even though I’d had a relatively good day, as soon as my husband walked in the door after work, I talked about the kids’ after-school squabble, our little guy’s potty-training accident, and “did I forget to mention the freezer isn’t working right?”

Often the things that pour off our tongues to others can be complaints of things not going our way or how we’ve been mistreated by others. We live in a rights-oriented culture, and if we don’t get what we think is rightfully ours, we storm off in anger or despair. Often, we slip on the sins of entitlement and discontentment down the slope to anxiety and depression. We can become surrounded by dark thoughts and unmet expectations that weigh down our hearts and put a cloud over our minds.

Read the rest here.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants

This is an excellent article from Desiring God by John Piper.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants 

An Invitation to the Psalms

Article by John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Try to imagine the Bible without the Psalms. What a different book it would be! What a different place the church would be. And what a different person I would be.

It’s not as though the rest of the Bible does not teach truth and awaken emotions. I learn things and feel things everywhere I read in the Bible. But it’s not the same. The Psalms do not just awaken the affections of the heart; they put the expression of those affections in the foreground. They feature the emotional experience of the psalmist intentionally against the backdrop of divine truth.

Emotion on Display 

They do not just invite the emotion of the heart in response to revealed truth. They put the emotion on display. They are not just commanding; they are contagious. We are not just listening to profound ideas and expressed affections. We are living among them in their overflow. We are walking in the counsel of God-besotted wisdom, and standing in the way of amazed holiness, and sitting in the seat of jubilant admiration.

We touch pillows wet with tears. We hear and feel the unabashed cries of affliction and shame and regret and grief and anger and discouragement and turmoil. But what makes all this stunningly different from the sorrows of the world is that all of it — absolutely all of it — is experienced in relation to the totally sovereign God.

God at the Bottom of It All 

None of these emotions rises from a heart that has rejected the all-governing God.

  • Your waves have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7).
  • You have made my days a few handbreadths” (Psalm 39:5).
  • You have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies”(Psalm 44:9).
  • You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations” (Psalm 44:11).
  • You have made your people see hard things” (Psalm 60:3).
  • And in it all, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1).

God is behind everything. This is the great difference between the Psalms of Scripture and the laments, complaints, and sorrows of the world. For the psalmists, God is a rock-solid, unshakeable, undeniable, omnipotent Reality. 

Read the rest here.

Excuses, Excuses…

Excuses, Excuses…

By Patricia Knight

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The Lord said to him,
“Who gave human beings their mouths?
Who makes them deaf or mute?
Who gives them sight or makes them blind?
Is it not I, the Lord?
 
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord.
Please send someone else.” 

—Exodus 4:11-13, NIV

God called Moses to lead His people to freedom, terminating four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. As God’s representative, Moses would establish non-negotiable terms of release with Pharaoh. Moses resisted God’s assignment with repeated, feeble excuses, pleading with God, “‘Please find someone else to do it’” (Exodus 4:13). God had already chosen an assistant and said to Moses, ”’What about your brother, Aaron, the Levite {priest}. He is already on his way to meet you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you and will teach you what to do’” (Exodus 14b-15). After declining a fifth and final time, Moses finally accepted God’s commission. To allay Moses’ fears, God demonstrated miracles Moses could perform when facing Pharaoh.

Moses’ stubborn resistance collapsed in submission to God’s authority and divine assistance. His stalwart determination, obedience, and allegiance to God and his people strengthened with each future adversity blocking his path, providing a pattern for all Christians to follow. Moses learned the roles of advocate and intercessor for the Israelites, pleading with God several times to save them when God was so angry with their disobedience, He was prepared to annihilate the entire population, calling them a stiff-necked people.

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Though initially manifesting anxiety that exposed a wobbly faith walk, Moses later became the great leader, lawgiver, and spokesman for Israel, achieving monumental triumphs in his career. He wasn’t a natural-born leader, but he was willing to follow God, learning leadership skills for a lifetime of service.

How do we respond when God presents us with an assignment that we hesitate to perform? Like Moses, are we primarily worried about our personal frailty and faults? Christians are adept at conjuring up clever excuses when God requires that we step outside our comfort zone. Lack of faith is usually responsible for blocking our path of obedience.

God focuses on our availabilities rather than our abilities.

He uses common people for uncommon jobs. And, He always walks before us, preparing our paths, leading us with His mighty power. “God has never sent any difficulties into the lives of His children without His accompanying offer of help in this life and reward in the life to come” (Billy Graham).

God hasn’t changed during the centuries since Moses lived, still promising strength and leadership with every mission He assigns. The Apostle Paul said, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). Paul recognized the limitless nature of his abilities when his plans conformed to God’s will. “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). If we believe in God’s Word, we receive power to accomplish God’s work.

Imagine walking the paths of a flower garden, inhaling the sweet fragrance naturally emitted from mature blossoms? “Now he {God} uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Corinthians 2:14b-15 NLT).When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, our lives are transformed by His grace. We appropriate the character traits of Jesus, radiating the fragrance of His life. Love for our Savior is portrayed by our humility, integrity, and compassion.

Our lives are letters written by the Holy Spirit for all to read. “You yourselves are our letter, written on your hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Is your life a letter that captivates readers’ interest, from which they will acquire great truth and knowledge of Jesus? Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. May your relationship with God be revealed by joy, dependency, and love.

Jesus said, “‘You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. If I make you a light-beacon, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bushel, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven’” (Matthew 5: 13-16, The Msg.).

A Christian’s primary function is to glorify God. Spiritual effectiveness is determined by our ability to flavor the world for Christ. God-centered lives honor our Father in heaven, witness to His goodness, and proclaim His salvation. Believers possess no inherent light, but Christ shines His light through us, penetrating a dark world.

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Jesus told his disciples, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV). The risen Savior commanded His Word be preached to all people, in every nation. Though few of us will serve as missionaries in a foreign land, each believer is a disciple of Christ. The old adage, “Bloom where you are planted,” indicates the most effective place to communicate Jesus’ message of salvation is within our own circle of influence.

It is wise to ponder God’s instructions before we frivolously dismiss His leadership, avoiding Moses’ initial reaction of shrinking in fear when God requested that he embark on a new spiritual challenge. It is futile to argue with God; in doing so, we minimize our participation in miraculous victories He plans to accomplish through us. God has demonstrated His faithfulness and trustworthiness throughout the ages. Now we have the opportunity to serve Him enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, as He empowers us to do the work to which He assigns us.

As it Begins

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As it Begins

By Patricia Knight

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace
at all times and in every way”

(2 Thessalonians 3:16).

As I sit at my desk, I stare with anticipation at the vast amount of accessible space in the new year’s calendar. With red pen in hand, I am poised to add distinguishing color to the otherwise bland pages making important days easily recognizable during the ensuing year.

In retrospect, I realize that a great deal can happen in a year, not just the daily routines, but the earth-shattering life experiences of birth, death, job promotions, health challenges, and various adventures that inevitably lead to immeasurable personal growth.  I ponder the possibility of exciting encounters during the next 365 days.

In our area of the world, January and February are positioned for a sluggish start to the New Year. Often marooned by snowstorms, our daily activities consist of snow removal, stoking auxiliary wood stoves, and observing the world from under a cloak of darkness by late afternoon each day. And yet, as mundane as those first two months of the year usually are, occasionally some exciting and energizing events have occurred. In January, we celebrate our grandson’s birthday with a party. Former college friends whom we had not seen in twenty years spent some quality time visiting with us in February one year. So now, I must adjust my thinking; anything is possible at any time of year!

When facing an unwritten twelve months, some people are fascinated by the possibilities while others experience apprehension. Enthusiasm and excitement permeate the thoughts of those who believe in God. He promises to care for them and to supply their needs. For unbelievers, there must be real fear associated with unrevealed days ahead. When a physical or an emotional crisis occurs, on whom do they depend for resolution to problems and security against the storms of life? What a risky way to live, without God as their Source of strength and power!

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I would prefer to hang on tight to the promises of God’s Word. “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11). I know that I can trust God to watch over me and design my life perfectly, revealing His plans to me in His precise timing.

What then, distinguishes between the person who relies on his own resources and the Christian who depends upon God for his daily provisions? Peace is not only relegated to world events dealing with international political stability, but peace has the capacity to reside within each heart, enabling relaxation and fulfillment when our external circumstances defy all definitions of harmony.

God is the author of peace. God’s Word reinforces the truth that God and peace are related. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever” (Isaiah 26:3-4a).

Peace and turmoil are contrasting emotions. No one chooses to live in a state of chaos and confusion. As much as possible, we seek peace of mind, of heart, and in our surroundings. Tranquil and serene scenes often evoke thoughts of peace. What happens to one’s vision of peace when the very site producing it has been bulldozed for construction or has been claimed a disaster by a tornado?  Efforts at finding peace are easily frustrated if peace is not sought in the right place.

The truth is, peace is not a place but a person. God is peace. He offers harmony and a sense of well-being, in which there are no conflicts. There is no disorder; quietness prevails; tranquility reigns. In the hush of the early morning hour, when the mist rises above the calm waters, all of nature is harmonious, God speaks to me, “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Peace is an attribute of God and a gift of the Holy Spirit to us.

I have no fear of the unknown, for my future is anchored in Jesus Christ. In Him there is an abundance of victory confidently secured in His never-changing character. Bring on the New Year with all of its uncharted waters carrying unidentified perils. I am not afraid. During the unfamiliar days ahead I am promised Jesus’ constant companionship. He already has knowledge of the purpose and outcome of each day.

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Pathway of #Pain

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Pathway of Pain

If my days were untroubled and my heart always light,

Would I seek that fair land where there is no night?
If I never grew weary with the weight of my load,
Would I seek for God’s peace at the end of the road?

If I never knew sickness and never felt pain,
Would I search for a hand to help and sustain?
If I walked without sorrow and lived without loss
Would my soul seek solace at the foot of the cross?

If all I desired was mine day by day,
Would I kneel before God and earnestly pray?
If God sent no winter to freeze me with fear,
Would I yearn for the warmth of spring every year?

I ask myself these and the answer is plain,
If my life were pleasure and I never knew pain –
I’d seek God less often and need Him much less,
For God is sought more often in times of distress.

And no one knows God or sees Him as plain –
As those who have met Him on the “Pathway of Pain.”

Author: Helen Steiner Rice

A Lovely Rose

Sweet yellow with pink roses

I will sing of your strength, 
in the morning I will sing of your love; 

for you are my fortress, 

my refuge in times of trouble.
—Psalm 59:16

 A Lovely Rose

 By Patricia Knight

Autumn in Maine is brilliant with the leaves of deciduous trees turning all shades of red, yellow, orange, and brown. Those hues combined with the deep greens of the softwoods create a fabulous scenic panorama.

 I had just noticed the leaves beginning to turn their pretty shades last week, anticipating more lustrous color developing each day. However, in the interim, our area sustained high winds and pounding rains. Many of the leaves that potentially could have turned dazzling colors have now been pummeled to the ground.

After assessing the damage, I discovered most of the remaining flower stalks in our garden were snapped off or bent over onto the ground. Single leaves, pine needles, and whole branches of trees created a disparate carpet on the land. I was bemoaning the devastated landscape when my eyes spotted the soft shades of a single Peace rose amidst the visual commotion. It was gently swaying in the soft morning breeze. Throughout the storm, that unprotected, delicate rose had stood stalwart, yet flexible, against the prevailing winds.

How resilient are we amid the storms of life? When we are battered by disappointments and despair, do we turn to God for strength? When illness disarms us, exposing physical restrictions, and emotional adversity intimidates our otherwise strong faith, are we able to remain vigorous and unflinching?

God commands that we depend upon His mighty strength when weakness threatens to conquer us. Imagine! We can access the power of the mightiest force of the entire universe. “God is our refuge and strength,an ever present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  With God as our stronghold, we emerge victorious. “I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 59:16).

Elijah is one of the great heroes in God’s Word. He stood alone against hundreds of the prophets of the false god, Baal, while God displayed His mighty, awesome power.

Elijah alone was victorious for his Lord. But, then, just as fast as he rejoiced in the victory, Elijah was frightened and humiliated by the one most powerful, yet blatantly wicked woman of that era. Queen Jezebel had announced that Elijah would die. He ran for his life. When weakened, he slumped under a tree requesting that God take his life. He progressed from victory to defeat in a few short hours. Elijah could teach a basic course on sudden fright and ineffectual reactions to it.

How tenacious was Elijah’Ps55-22--AMPs faith when he was no longer in control? He was so subdued by a human threat that he forgot the Source of his power and strength. Elijah was admittedly exhausted and that is what God recognized. Rather than discipline him for his lack of faith, God ministered to him by sending an angel to feed him, allowing him some sound sleep, and introducing him to Elisha, a companion and future helper in his work.  God understands even when we falter. “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22). What a promise!

Though Elijah could only focus on the threats to his life when he was fatigued, there came a time when he awakened to the sight of a lovely rose blooming in the desert. That flower was the Rose of Sharon, the Lord Himself. He spoke to Elijah personally and audibly, in a gentle whisper. Elijah was physically and emotionally restored as God empowered him to continue the important work He had assigned him.

Let us remain steadfast in our faith so that when threats assail us, we will recognize and call to the Source of our help.

“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).

Sunday Praise and Worship: You Will Never Run

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I’ve been dealing with lots of upper respiratory infections for months. The temptation to take on a “poor me” attitude has tried to lure me in, but I know that God is always with me and will never let me go.

Beloved, is life trying to drag you down? Are you wondering if things will ever get any better? Don’t give up! Hold on tight to the truth that God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26, see below)

I love the song “You WIll Never Run” by Rend Collective. These lyrics especially speak to me:

You will never run away
You’re forever mine
You will never run away
You’re by my side
You will never run away
You forever shine
You will never run away
You’re by my side

As you listen to this song, ponder the words of Psalm 73 that remind us that God is always with us:

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
—Psalm 73:23-26

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If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.