Make War Stop

I want to learn how to break away from putting faith and trust in civic government.

_________________________

I used to stand.

I used to swell with pride.

I used to feel a lump in my throat.

I remember chanting over and over those three letters that used to stir my soul.

But this used to translate into little more than playing with my G.I. Joe action figures and the good guys were always the Americans and the bad guys were always from some other country and the good guys always won.

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe that is just the imagination of a young child.

gij0

But my childhood imagination never really left. It just grew into this strange sort of “war as game” mentality where my country’s military were the good guy G.I. Joes and the others were the bad guys.

And everyone else was “other.”

The Gulf War happened when I was in high school. We would eat dinner in front of the TV and watch the televised attacks. It was like watching a movie.

Only, this was real. Right? I mean, maybe it wasn’t. It was all so far away. I didn’t know any of the participants. I could just finish dinner, leave the living room, go to my room, and act out scenarios with my action figures. (Yes, I still played with my G.I. Joes in high school; that’s a topic for another blog post.)

Recently, however, something has changed. War is all too real. And all too deadly. And all too unnecessary.

_________________________

Now, I just don’t know. I am still grateful. I am still proud of the better parts of our heritage and history while wanting to acknowledge the darkness and evil parts, as well. Where we have done good we should celebrate. Where we have done evil we should rectify.

I am still grateful for those who have heard served and are serving in our armed forces, but military might no longer fills me with pride. Now, it just saddens me that people are being killed.

And I want it to stop.

So my imagination must change. I must no longer regard someone’s life as if it is a game. I must be a peace-maker. I must seek out others who are peace-makers, as well. I must remember there is no “other,” there are only children of God.

Psalm 46:8-11The Voice (VOICE)

Come, gaze, fix your eyes on what the Eternal can do.
Amazing, He has worked desolation here on this battlefield,earth.
God can stop wars anywhere in the world.
He can make scrap of all weapons: snap bows, shatter spears,
and burn shields.
10 “Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God.
I am honored among all the nations.
I am honored over all the earth.”
11 You know the Eternal, the Commander of heavenly armies, surrounds us and protects us;
the True God of Jacob is our shelter, close to His heart.

 

The Prince of Peace

PAUL

In 1859, Phillips Brooks, the author of O Little Town of Bethlehem, became a rector at a church in Philadelphia. He stayed in that city for a total of 10 years. The early years of that time were during the Civil War. Brooks was a staunch opponent of slavery and spoke out against it often. People describe him as a man of giant stature—both physically and in the strength of his convictions. Yet he is also described as someone that no one could be completely upset with, either; I guess because of his overall humble spirit.

In 1865, as the Civil War was coming to an end, Brooks took a year-long trip to Europe and the Holy Lands. On that trip, Brooks saw the city of Bethlehem; listen to this description:

“It was the sight of Bethlehem itself, one feels very sure, that gave Phillips Brooks the impulse to write this hymn. He was then rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, in Philadelphia, and had spent a year’s vacation traveling in Europe and the East. “After an early dinner, we took our horses and rode to Bethlehem,” so he wrote home in Christmas week of 1865. “It was only about two hours when we came to the town, situated on an eastern ridge of a range of hills, surrounded by its terraced gardens. It is a good-looking town, better built than any other we have seen in Palestine. . . . Before dark, we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star. It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it (all the Holy Places are caves here), in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds. The story is absurd, but somewhere in those fields we rode through the shepherds must have been. . . . As we passed, the shepherds were still “keeping watch over their flocks or leading them home to fold.” Mr. Brooks returned in September, 1866, and it must have been while meditating at home over what he had seen that the carol took shape in his mind.”

“Somewhere in those fields we rode through the shepherds must have been.”

Can you imagine living in a place consumed with war and hatred and racism and slavery, and then riding through the same fields where the shepherds who first learned about Jesus were? A person who had taken a stand against the evil of his day and had lived close to some of the bloodiest battlefields of the war looked out over the city where our Savior was born.

We heard the first two verses of the song already tonight, but listen to these last three:

  1. How silently, how silently,
    The wondrous gift is given;
    So God imparts to human hearts
    The blessings of His Heaven.
    No ear may hear His coming,
    But in this world of sin,
    Where meek souls will receive Him still,
    The dear Christ enters in.
  2. Where children pure and happy
    Pray to the blessed Child,
    Where misery cries out to Thee,
    Son of the Mother mild;1
    Where Charity stands watching
    And Faith holds wide the door,
    The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
    And Christmas comes once more.
  3. O holy Child of Bethlehem,
    Descend to us, we pray!
    Cast out our sin and enter in,
    Be born in us to-day.
    We hear the Christmas angels,
    The great glad tidings tell;
    O come to us, abide with us,
    Our Lord Emmanuel!

“No ear may hear his coming, but in this dark world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”

Sometimes, the peace that Jesus brings is not an end to the conflict we are facing. Sometimes, the peace that Jesus brings is that He is present with us in the conflict.

Let’s read Matthew 1:18-23:

18 So here, finally, is the story of the birth of Jesus the Anointed[a] (it is quite a remarkable story):

Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, son of David. They hadn’t married. And yet, some time well before their wedding date, Mary learned that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, because he was kind and upstanding and honorable, wanted to spare Mary shame. He did not wish to cause her more embarrassment than necessary.

20 Now when Joseph had decided to act on his instincts, a messenger of the Lord came to him in a dream.

Messenger of the Lord: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to wed Maryand bring her into your home and family as your wife. She did not sneak off and sleep with someone else—rather, she conceived the baby she now carries through the miraculous wonderworking of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will have a son, and you will name Him Jesus, which means “the Lord saves, because this Jesus is the person who will save all of His people from sin.

24 Joseph woke up from his dream and did exactly what the messenger had told him to do: he married Mary and brought her into his home as his wife25 (though he did not consummate their marriage until after her son was born).And when the baby was born, Joseph named Him Jesus, Savior.

22 Years and years ago, Isaiah, a prophet of Israel, foretold the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:

23     A virgin will conceive and bear a Son,
and His name will be Immanuel.

Can you imagine what Joseph must have been thinking? His fiancé, supposed to be a virgin, comes to him and says she is pregnant. Because Joseph was a good man, he was going to deal with it quietly. He wasn’t going to publicly disgrace Mary. He wasn’t going to stone her to death. But he was going to end their relationship.

Until the angel comes to him. And the angel says this is part of God’s plan. And Joseph willingly submits to the will of God. But understand this: the shame, the public perception, the difficulty did not go away. Joseph still had the same situation when he woke up that he had when he went to sleep the night before.

But now, there was a peace that he had been missing.

RHEANNON

I’m not known for having a lot of peace. If the average amount of peace in an eighth grader is 100 grams, I probably have 6. I’m not even joking; I am the most stressed person I know. I gave myself an illness because of this stress. If we’re gonna be honest, let’s just also talk about how the writer of this song was anti-slavery during the flipping Civil War and he seems to understand peace more than I do.

I also am a very impatient person. I can wait for something I want for maybe, maybe, thirty seconds. I’m not kidding, I am the second worst wait-er I know (the first is sitting in this room and is related to me, but that’s all I’m giving you).

So, of course, Paul over here decided I would be the best one to talk the bulk of the lesson.

Now I’m expected to ramble about those things for a half hour.

Thanks, Paul.

Peace is a hard word to understand simply because it seems like a foreign concept. I stress about school – there’s an algebra final tomorrow, my grades are almost all ending in 9, I didn’t read as much as I would have liked, my science teacher keeps talking about how the Sun could go out at any moment and we wouldn’t know until nine minutes later when we all die –

and family – Jordan’s annoying and I’m not allowed to hit him, I said something sarcastic and it was bad, I don’t want to –

and faith – church is really early in the morning, youth group has become awkward, there are going to be a lot of people, I don’t always feel comfortable being me –

and I stress about myself – the way my stomach sticks out slightly, the way my hair does this weird thing on top, my odd, if not unique, personality, my strange obsession with hugs.

Right at this moment I’m shaking in my boots because my peers are here and it’s a lot harder to be real at this time then it was last week.

One of my favorite lines is, “But in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.” I absolutely adore this line. This verse gives me some of that peace I’ve been missing. I may not be meek, but knowing that close friends of mine can receive Christ makes me feel good. The line encourages me, because in this awful, terrible world, God still comes. He’s going to enter this world, no matter the condition.

I recently read a book about aliens who thought of themselves as angels who came to save the earth from itself by bettering the people they came into contact with. They ended up leaving because humans weren’t ready or something crazy. And this was the world God sent his son into. God still saves, even if people are defiant and resolute – God will come.

Somehow, we still get to experience the Prince of Peace coming into a world where peace is nonexistent and stress is the king. I am part of a community who believe in a Savior so powerful, I can stand here in front of my peers without having a heart attack.

Let’s talk about this waiting thing. Advent is about waiting. Hope for what is to come. Joy for when the waiting is over. Love for…something. Peace for knowing it won’t be forever that we have to wait. Peace for realizing that we have proof that our wait is not everlasting. Oh, yeah – love for having peace!

Anyways, like I said earlier, I’m not a good wait-er. I enjoy knowing. I even, don’t hate me for this fellow readers, I read the last page of the book I’m reading so I can know what happens. And if the last page isn’t enough, I’ll keep reading back until I get to a part that will explain what the ending was. I don’t do this whole, “Wait and be surprised thing.” Oh no, I will know the end.

Yet I love Advent. I enjoy the whole season, I like the messages, I love, love, love the themes. This begs the question, “Why is Rheannon a walking oxymoron?” Well, that’s because I don’t really have to wait for anything. Of course, I’m waiting for Jesus to return, but I’m not flipping out over it, mostly because I know He will come, which as much of an answer as I need. I already know Jesus has come and will return. I don’t have to wait for that, I have an easy time waiting for this particular thing.

Which makes me think, why am I not peaced? Honestly, Jesus coming back to save me should give me all the peace I need (all 100 grams), yet I still worry about anything and everything. I still hyperventilate when I think about this or finals or family disputes. I still cringe thinking about getting feedback after tonight and listening to people tell me, “It was good, but you could have done this…” or “Next time, you might consider….”

I’m sweating just thinking about this.

But I do believe in a Prince of Peace, in the Wonderful counselor, but it’s hard. I’m still learning how to find peace in God, still learning to make my own peace. It’s hard for me to imagine that I’m supposed to give everything up, that I can just let the hard things go.

I can try though.

PAUL

Jesus’ early life was filled with anything but peace. A scandalous pregnancy. Being born at the end of a journey miles from home. A king who wanted to kill him. Becoming a refugee to Egypt. Having to pick a home that seemed to be a safe distance away from people who might want to kill him.

Our world is not one of peace. There are conflicts. There is confusion. There is angry, fear-based rhetoric.

There is the reality of our own lives that we have to face every day. We sing about peace, we long for peace, we love peace, we want peace.

But some days, peace is the furthest thing from our grasp.

Yet Jesus had a father who submitted to God’s will. He had a mother who said, “May it be to me as you have said.”

We live in a dark world filled with hate, but we are people who love the light. Peace does not mean all of our troubles will go away. Advent does not mean that all the troubles of the world are resolved.

Advent means Jesus comes into this dark world to walk with us. Those of you who are hurting: Jesus is here. Those who are homeless: Jesus is here. Those who have tests tomorrow: Jesus is here. Those who are terrified someone might speak to them: Jesus is here. Those who want to drink or drug: Jesus is here. Those who think this life is meaningless: Jesus is here. Those who hate themselves: Jesus is here.

Jesus is here.

RHEANNON

I stand here in front of my peers, panicking in my head, but calm as a cucumber outwardly. I still look forward to learning more Algebra next semester. I’m still excited for school to start in the morning. I will still live my life normally, no matter what the Sun decides to do. I’ll still go home with my parents and brothers and listen to them and roll my eyes at them and love them.

I can talk to my friends because I know at least seven of them have been going “same” after all my stress talk, I can still talk to my Freedom peoples because they’re the greatest and the bestest. I can still talk to my dad because he’s the bomb-diggity and will encourage me. I can still talk to people who came to listen to me because after all my talk about being stressed they probably won’t be mean.

I can do all this, because God is the Prince of Peace, come to defeat the King of Stress.

Amazing Peace

by Maya Angelou

 

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

From Dust to Dust, A Short Lenten Reflection

“From dust we came…to dust we will return.”

There is a lot I wish would return to dust quickly:

Injustice

Systemic racism; actually—any form of racism

White privilege

White supremacy

Punitive legal system

Death penalty

Abortion

War

Hatred

And then I realize that Lent is not (necessarily) about eradicating all that is unholy and sinful in the world.

Lent is about eradicating all that is unholy and sinful within me.

How have I contributed to, benefitted from, or ignored all those evils I already listed? How have I victimized others by my actions? How have I victimized myself?

This is only the fourth year I have participated in Lent. It has been a powerful experience before me. Yet this year, I am doing something different. I am not intentionally fasting or giving something up.

Instead, I am going to sit in silence. No agenda. No plan. No action.

Just silence.

Because there is so much pain and sin and hatred in the world. And in me.

And sometimes I just need to sit with it.

And pray that it all turns back to dust.

_________________________

On Sunday, February 22, we will be hosting a candlelight vigil on the 3 month anniversary of Tamir Rice’s death. Tamir was a young child shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer for playing with a toy. We have lost too many children (and adults) to violence. We will meet this Sunday and pray for peace and justice and nonviolence. We will pray for our systems to change. We will pray for a better world for our children to inherit.

It is appropriate this prayer vigil (taking place in 22 cities) is occurring during Lent. Lent is a season of reflection. Lent is a season of repentance. Lent leads us to something better. It is my prayer that we as a society reflect, repent, and move towards something better.

Please join us at Freedom Fellowship, 941 Chestnut St. in Abilene, TX, this Sunday at 7:00 P.M.

Peace in a Peace-less World

We are in week 2 of Advent. A week devoted to peace. The song at the end of this post is actually a prayer for peace. The writer of the song is Noel Regney. Born in France, Regney was drafted into the occupying German army during World War II. Since he hated the Nazi regime he joined the French underground.

As if living out a movie script, one of Regney’s missions involved him leading German soldiers into a trap. He brought the soldiers he was secretly fighting against into an ambush where they were shot and most of them died. The French also shot Regney to sell the deception.

Shortly after that, Regney deserted the German army. After the war, he pursued a career in music and eventually migrated to Manhattan, New York, in the 50s. About 10 years later, the United States found itself in a nuclear stare-down with the Soviet Union. The Cuban Missile Crisis created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.

In the midst of that atmosphere, Regney was commissioned by a record producer to write a holiday song. How could he possibly write a song about Christmastime when no one around him smiled? A man who had known the terrors of war could not see how a new song could be written under the impending threat of a war that could literally wipe the world out.

In fact, Regney once said, “I had thought I’d never write a Christmas song. Christmas had become so commercial. But this was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the studio, the producer was listening to the radio to see if we had been obliterated. En route to my home, I saw two mothers with their babies in strollers. The little angels were looking at each other and smiling. All of a sudden, my mood was extraordinary.”

That mood led to him writing these words. Words of hope that peace actually could be realized:

Do You Hear What I Hear

Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people, everywhere
Listen to what I say!
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

His wife Gloria Shayne wrote the music for the song. They were both so moved that they were unable to sing it without breaking down. Regney would go on to say he was so surprised that so many people could love the song without realizing it was a cry for peace.

And that is why it is such an appropriate song for second week of Advent. A week devoted to the theme of peace.

Isaiah 9:6, 7 reads, “Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams, a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift. And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great. The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders. His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Dear Father everlasting, ever-present, never-failing, Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace. His leadership will bring such prosperity as you’ve never seen before—sustainable peace for all time. This child: God’s promise to David—a throne forever, among us, to restore sound leadership that cannot be perverted or shaken. He will ensure justice without fail and absolute equity. Always. The intense passion of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, will carry this to completion.”

A child is born. A true leader. A deliverer. The Prince of Peace.

Yet Jesus is the Prince of Peace revealed to a people who did not know peace; a people oppressed; a people deprived of justice. And where there is no justice, there is no peace.

So we have a problem. That problem is there really does not seem to be any peace, so what exactly is Jesus supposed to be the Prince of?

When Jesus was presented at the temple, an old man, Simeon, was there to bless Him and His parents. But pay close attention to what he said in his blessing to Mary and Joseph: “Listen, this child will make many in Israel rise and fall. He will be a significant person whom many will oppose. In the end, He will lay bare the secret thoughts of many hearts. And a sword will pierce even you own soul, Mary” (Luke 2:34, 35).

Make many rise and fall?

Significant person many will oppose?

A sword will pierce your soul?

Those don’t sound like the results of peace coming into the world.

And let’s back up a little bit. Remember that passage from Isaiah 9? The one proclaiming the promise of the Prince of Peace? Do you know what comes in the verses immediately following that?

9:12: “They come, these enemies, from both sides (Syrians on the east and Philistines on the west) and consume Israel, swallowing it whole. Still, God’s anger smolders. His hand is raised; there is more to come.”

9:14: “Therefore, He will take them to task. In a single day He’ll cut off from Israel the head and the tail; He’ll cut down the noble palm and lowly reed.”

9:16: “These misguided leaders have misled this people; and those who follow have become swallowed up in their deceit.”

9:17: “Mercy has run out for even those without power—the widows and orphans.”

10:1, 2: “How awful it will be for those who mandate wickedness and legalize oppression, denying justice to the needy, taking away the right of the poor among My people. Such leaders intend to make helpless widows and orphans their prey.”

Peace? This is the peace that will come when that child, that son, that gift comes into this world?

I think about the three questions our song asks: Do you see? Do you hear? Do you know?

This is what I see:

I see a world where people are killed in the streets and there is no accountability for those who do it.

I see a world where if another person does it, it is terrorism; but if I do it, it is patriotism.

I see a world that makes it almost impossible for people to get a fresh start, a second chance; because every time they take one step forward there is a system in place that will gladly knock them back down.

I see a world where consumerism drowns out the calls for justice.

I see a world that is convinced they are right and everyone else is wrong.

What do you see?

This is what I hear:

I hear people crying out for justice and peace.

I hear people yelling with, at best, comments of dismissal, such as, “Just get over it. It’s not that big a deal.” At worst, they are yelling statements of hate, such as, “They got what they deserved. There’s one less of them now.”

I hear people who in theory exist to tell the truth spin their stories to bolster their ratings.

I hear people who are supposed to be in charge offer platitudes and promises with no practical solutions.

What do you hear?

This is what I know:

I know that Elisea is going to celebrate Christmas with the pain of losing her 6 month old son fresh on her mind.

I know that instead of opening presents underneath a tree, many of my friends will be spending the night sleeping by a tree.

I know that people are still picking up the literal and figurative debris of their communities and do not feel like celebrating anything.

I know that people will be separated from their families on Christmas Day because they are away fighting someone else’s wars.

What do you know?

Why could Regney say he was filled with hope?

Why could Simeon say, “You may now dismiss your servant”?

How can we sing songs praising the Prince of Peace when all around us there is anything but peace?

And then I remember:

Advent is not for people who know how the story ends. Advent is for people who are waiting—uncertain, unknowing.

Advent is about being in the dark; and then all of a sudden being surprised by a bright light.

Jesus actually speaks to this near the end of His life. In John 16, just before Jesus begins His final prayer with His apostles, He looks at them and says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.”

That is why a man well-versed in the ravages of war could be filled with hope by two children smiling at each other.

That is why a man who had waited his entire life for the Messiah could happily prepare to depart this life.

That is why the Israelites in Isaiah’s day could be comforted by the gift a child.

That is why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could look at Nebuchadnezzar and say, “Our God will rescue us from this fiery furnace, but even if God does not we will still not bow down to your idol.” (Daniel 3)

That is why Esther could stand in the presence of the King on behalf of her people. (Esthcter 5)

That is why Stephen could look at the crowd of people stoning him to death and say, “Father, forgive them.”(Acts 7)

That is why John could write about the elders and all the living creatures bowing down to the Lamb and crying, “Holy, holy, holy.” (Revelation 5)

Because Jesus has brought peace into a world that is in desperate need.

Where there is no justice, there is no peace.

Jesus came to bring both.

So we wait.

We hold on.

We anticipate.

 

Today Was A Bad Day

Some days, I just want it to stop.

I don’t want to have to keep putting in so much effort.

Life is hard and I don’t always think I am up to the challenge.

Some mornings, it is such an effort to get out of bed because I know I am just going to have the face the same challenges I faced yesterday. If I have already worked so hard, why do I have to keep working? If I have put so much effort into this already, why can’t I see a payoff?

And I don’t always feel like I can tell anyone.

Because, after all, I’m the guy with sobriety time. I’m the guy who leads recovery groups. I’m the guy who’s almost 40, married 17 years with 3 kids. I’m the guy who helps teach people how to discover their talents and abilities and find work. I’m the guy who leads small groups for middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults.

So who can I tell?

I can’t show any weakness. I need to be strong. And also, won’t all these things just go away if only I have enough faith? Pray hard enough? Do more churchy stuff?

__________________________

One of the worst things about feeling that way is that we convince ourselves we cannot talk about it.

Feeling tired, feeling overwhelmed, feeling depressed is not strange. It is not sinful. It is not wrong. It happens.

And pretending it doesn’t makes it worse.

We need to create more space to talk about our difficult days. The more we talk, the less strange it seems. More than that, when we talk about it more, we realize that we are not alone in our struggle. So many of us have thought we are the only ones who feel depressed, lonely, anxious, or just sad.

But we are not. So many others have experienced the same things. When we isolate, our experience only gets worse. And isolating does something else: it allows us to convince ourselves that we are the only ones who struggle. Because when everyone is isolating, no one is sharing.

One of the most powerful, startling, and profound realizations anyone can have is, “I am not alone.” I find out I am not alone when someone has the courage to speak up and say they go through the same things I go through. Other people find out they are not alone when I muster up enough courage to speak up on my own behalf.

__________________________

Treating it like sin or weakness makes it worse.

Depression is not a matter of lack of faith. Anxiety is not a sin.

But what about that verse that says, “Cast all your anxieties on Him” or, “Do not be anxious about anything”?

I know that. I get that. I love those verses. I strive to follow them daily.

But some days, the emotion is almost crushing. Some days, I feel like it is a struggle to breathe.

Does that mean I am sinful those days? I certainly hope not.

I believe it means that when I feel like I am about to lose control I know where to turn. When fear hits, I have a refuge. When anxiety descends upon me and I am overwhelmed, I can begin to turn to that light. When the waves of life are crashing around me, I don’t have to be okay before I say, “God, help!”

I do cast my cares on Him. When I am anxious I do pray. But I still have those moments of struggle. Thank God I am not alone in that.

Instead of making people feel weak or un-Christian for those experiences, lament with them. Be quiet instead of offering platitudes. Cry and scream with them. Maybe they will do the same with you.

Do you need examples of people, good people, who experienced depression and anxiety? Look at John the Baptist and Jesus. The prophet who asked if Jesus really was who John had proclaimed him to be. The Messiah, Son of God, Savior, who was so stressed out his sweat fell like blood.

We have our moments of grief, anguish, fear, doubt, and pain. But we know where we can turn.

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This does not even address those who suffer with severe clinical depression or anxiety. If you are one of those people, please seek the help you need. But also, please talk to me about it. I pray you are in a faith community that is welcoming and inviting to you. I pray you have a community that treats you like a brother or a sister; not an outcast.

To the faith community, please stop making people who suffer with mental health issues feel like they are “less than.” People do not need to be made to feel guilty; they need to be loved, supported, and nurtured. People don’t need nags, they need champions—people who will fight for them even when they don’t have the strength to fight for themselves.

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Let us be more open; more vulnerable. In other words—let’s be honest. Not every day is a good day. And some bad days are worse than others.

I need to know you have bad days. And I need you to know that I have them, too. It’s easy to find people to get together and have a good time. It’s easy to find people who are willing to suppress their real emotions in order to not the rock the boat at social gatherings.

It is much harder to find people who are willing to be honest. People who are willing to show the courage it takes to say, “I need help.”

But when we say that, we realize we are not alone.

And they may just be the greatest realization we can make.