'I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing: I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours.'
Over the last few weeks I have been struggling with depression, I know that from reading other folks blogs that I am not alone in this, and from time to time if not suffering from depression that everyone feels down. With that in mind I wonder what lifts you? So I'd like you to share 5 things:
1. A Scripture- it might be a verse or a whole book!
1 I look up to the hills. Where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord. He is the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He won't let your foot slip. He who watches over you won't get tired. 4 In fact, he who watches over Israel won't get tired or go to sleep. 5 The Lord watches over you. The Lord is like a shade tree at your right hand. 6 The sun won't harm you during the day. The moon won't harm you during the night. 7 The Lord will keep you from every kind of harm. He will watch over your life. 8 The Lord will watch over your life no matter where you go, both now and forever.
2. A piece of music.
It has to be Bach:
3. A place.
Any where near the sea- this is Hornsea where I walked last weekend:
4. A person/ group of people
My husband Tim :-)
5. Something you do...
Getting out to walk, though motivating myself to do that is difficult at the moment.
Those of you who read my ramblings regularly will know that I have been struggling with depression for the last few weeks, well that is to say that I've been signed off work for the last few weeks, the build up to depression had been going on much longer. Over the last year lots of little things have piled up and I have coped with them, but each one has added to the weight of a burden that eventually became to heavy for me to carry.
The way that I am also affects those around me, and when they too are carrying burdens and dealing with different circumstances life can become easily frayed and fraught. Yesterday was a bad day for me, the depression seemed to deepen, and I went to bed with a simple prayer in my heart: Lord help.
This morning I woke with these words clearly running through my mind:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
It was a slap head moment for me, not that I am into seeing demons behind every bush or blaming the devil for my circumstances, but the very fact that all of these things have come together, the tiredness they have brought, have all contributed my inability to see the wood for the trees ! This morning that short verse gave me the clarity I needed to "see" what was happening.
Now I don't know about you but I struggle with the the words spiritual warfare, partly because they evoke memories of immaturity in me where I did believe that the devil was behind every mishap, and also became an easy scape-goat for my own lack of holiness. That said I also believe that we need to put it into its right and proper perspective and acknowledge that we do have an enemy of our souls who:
".....prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)
I can certainly empathise with the feeling of being devoured by doubt and despair at the moment and am grateful for the glimpses and glimmers of hope that I have been given. Whether you believe in an entity called "the devil" or merely in the real possibility of spiritual evil as well as spiritual good, I think that we must acknowledge that there is a battle going on in realms that we cannot see.
I decided to check out what my own tradition says about spiritual battles and came across this by John Wesley who says:
"The "god of this world" knows how to blind our hearts, to spread a cloud over our understanding, and to obscure the light of those truths which, at other times, shine as bright as the noonday sun. By this means he assaults our faith, our evidence of things unseen. He endeavours to weaken that hope full of immortality to which God had begotten us; and thereby to lessen, if he cannot destroy, our joy in God our Saviour. But, above all he strives to damp our love of God, as he knows this is the spring of all our religion, and that, as this rises or falls, the work of God flourishes or decays in the soul.
This enemy of all righteousness is equally diligent to hinder every good word and work. If he cannot prevail upon us to do evil, he will, if possible, prevent our doing good. He is peculiarly diligent to hinder the work of God from spreading in the hearts of men. What pains does he take to prevent or obstruct the general work of God! And how many are his devices to stop its progress in particular souls! To hinder their continuing or growing in grace, in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! To lessen, if not destroy, that love, joy, peace, -- that long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, -- that fidelity, meekness, temperance, -- which our Lord works by his loving Spirit in them that believe, and wherein the very essence of religion consists."
It is clear that he believed in spiritual forces of evil and acknowledged the effect that those forces could have upon individuals and groups. He saw these forces as hindering, stealing and destroying, and noted that we need not only to be vigilant and discerning in spotting them but also ready to use all of our God given resources to protect ourselves and others from their attacks, resources such as the spiritual armour, and spiritual gifts. These passages also reveal to us our need of God and of one another, pray for me Paul writes (Ephesians 6), and when speaking of the spiritual gifts of how they should be used for the building up of the church that we can be useful and effective.
My recent experience has reminded me how easy it is to be lulled into apathy, to forget that we live in a world of conflict in more ways than mere surface wars and problems, that there is truly a greater battle going on all around us, and in fighting it we also fight injustice and strive for peace, that deep peace that Jesus speaks of when he said:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
And when all is too much how he invites us to lean on him:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)
To live and move and have our beings in Christ is to live and move in his unforced rhythms of grace, to be fully alive and aware of his presence within and without, to move beyond the surface things of this world and to be citizens of another kingdom....
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 23: 37-40
Two little words in this challenging passage make it all the more difficult, when it comes to the command to love God and our neighbours, most of us would nod in agreement and try to do so. But when it comes to loving ourselves, really loving ourselves I suspect that we begin to struggle.
We struggle for all sorts of reasons, but I wonder if the greatest reason is simply that we find it very difficult to accept ourselves as we are. By that I mean truly accepting ourselves as we are, with all of our faults and flaws and problems, all of our quirks, and all that we might like to be but aren't.
Of course truly accepting ourselves means that we must stop hiding from ourselves (and others), that we take a good look at what we call faults and consider them carefully. There might be room for growth, there might be a need for change, but we cannot do anything if we don not acknowledge who we are and accept that it is as we are that we are loved by God. God will not love us any more than he does now, he will not love us any less than he does now, for his love is constant, and in that love we find freedom.
If we fail God will not abandon us, he will receive us as we are and help us to learn and grow, but we are loved as much when we fail as we are when we succeed!
If we fall he will not leave us to stumble again, but will gently help us to our feet and guide us to safe ground.
If we turn away, of get lost on the way he will not leave us, but will seek us out, and remind us that we are loved wherever we are.
In all of this he will help us to understand how to love ourselves, and not just in a surface way- a way so often encouraged by reality T.V. that states that confidence comes from how good we look/ what we wear/ how much we weigh. The Scriptures remind us that God sees our heart, and when our hearts are filled with loathing for ourselves God weeps, for we are his treasured creations.
I have to remind myself of these truths over and over again, particularly when I am feeling vulnerable, or am in need of forgiveness, I have to remind myself :
"With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture.....
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8: 31-39
Nothing can drive a wedge between us and Christs love for us, nothing, because we have been and are being embraced by that depth of love shown so fully on the cross. Love sacrificing itself for loves sake, calling us to receive love so that we can give it, calling us to embrace the truth that we can only love because he loved us first.
I believe that we struggle with love so much because we are always wearing one mask or another, always trying to be something that we are not, and cannot be, that we hold not only a wrong view of ourselves for all manner of reasons, and also of God because we superimpose our demands upon ourselves onto God, and hiding becomes a vicious circle. What we need is to break free of our masks, and demands, and false images/idols, to dare to be open to loves fullness, so that we might enter into fullness of life...
I know it isn't easy, and it is an ongoing process, but I am sure that it is worth it, and so I am reminding myself again...