It’s 6:15 in the morning. I’m sitting cozily in my rocking chair. I’m going through the book of Jeremiah, and there in chapter 33, a series of sentences cuts me to the heart.
I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil.Jeremiah 33:5, CSB
Depression is a complicated thing and can have many causes. I speak only for myself, but I have spent far too many days of my life trying to do things in my own strength and then being surprised that I get tired and depressed. Maybe I don’t think of this as “evil,” but truly it is similar to the people of Israel. They wanted to do things their own way. Possibly, God can use the darkness of depression in my life to show me weaknesses in my view of God and my idolatry when I turn to other things.
Also, there’s a reason I’ve been titling these pieces “Mental Wellness in Ministry.” When a person is in a specific ministry like taking in foster children, falling into depression takes on a whole new level of horror. I think Satan goes into a whole new level of attack, too. He wants to paralyze us with the fear that we can’t even take care of ourselves, so why would we try to help others? Questions sprout like poisoned weeds: Did God really want me to do this in the first place? Did God bring me here and then walk away? Is God punishing me for a sin? Why would God ask me to do this if He knows I can’t handle it?
There are no answers to those questions as good as God’s Word.
I read on.
Yet I will certainly bring health and healing to it, and will indeed heal them. I will let them experience the abundance of true peace.Jeremiah 33:6, CSB
Isn’t that outstanding? In fact, I have found that God always hears my questions, but that sometimes he answers them by turning my eyes away from the questions to something better, His own presence, person, and attributes. And suddenly the questions aren’t important anymore.
Later on in this lovely chapter, I came to this astonishing metaphor:
This is what the Lord says: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night so that day and night cease to come at their regular time, then also my covenant with my servant David may be broken.Jeremiah 33:20-21, CSB
Sometimes, a word picture can restore the soul. Here, God promises that his covenant can be counted on as thoroughly as the rising and setting sun. He almost teases us. “Why don’t you change when the sun rises, O Doubting One,” God says? “Do that! And then you can make me break my promise as well.”
It seems to me that healing rushes through the body, even physically, when God and His Word encounter the heart. Here are some ways I’ve tried to cultivate this healing in more intentional ways since walking through the most recent darkness.
Four ways to hide Scripture in your heart:
- Read it. There may be days that you simply don’t get around to reading Scripture. But as long as your goal is to read daily, you will still be meeting the spirit of your goal even if you miss occasionally.
- Choose a verse from your daily passage to take with you and memorize through the day. What I have started doing is writing one or more lines of Scripture on a blank journal page that I can keep near me through the day. Going over the verse or line of Scripture throughout the day often allows me to have it memorized by late afternoon.
- Share the verse with someone. I’ve not done it a lot, but here’s what has happened. “Can I share a verse with you that I’ve been trying to learn today? You can test me to see if I can say it.” Then I just jump in, often stumbling or paraphrasing, because when I’m actually with someone else it’s suddenly difficult. “I am the Lord of all the earth. Is anything too difficult for me?” If I’ve practiced it enough, I can usually get it out decently. But here is what is shocking – the words are powerful. I can speak my own words until I’m blue in the face, and my neighbor with the tattooed torso and wild red eyes couldn’t care less. But if I look him in the eye and share a few words of Scripture, almost without fail an element of peace and quietness comes over him (or whoever it is). What better words do I have to offer? None. And what is even more shocking is that the power of the verse in my own experience seems to magnify when I share it.
- Look for verses that address your negative thoughts. In his book, Slaying the Giant, French O’Shields suggests writing negative thoughts down when you think them. Just make a list, leaving space beneath each one. Then, write in Scripture that proclaims God’s truth beneath the negative thought. Read the thought silently, and read the Scripture aloud. He has other ideas for more spiritual exercises with God’s Word. I recommend the book.
I haven’t elaborated much on helping others. However, as I was mulling over that aspect, I thought of the drama that has been unfolding lately with a neighbor. It’s a story that is not turning out well at all. For a small glimpse of the setting, let me say that at one point I threw a pair of blue jeans across a stinking, trashed room at a grown man and said, “Get some pants on and let’s go.”
Even though it’s a dramatic story that doesn’t seem to be ending well, I feel like a few elements of the case might be constructive.
I’ll tell you more next week.
Um… can anyone send me some Golden Grahams? We’re good on toilet paper, but apparently my favorite cereal is another COVID 19 casualty. 🙂