public service announcement: computer crashed
podcast to follow soon (hopefully)
I wrote this flying to Charleston, SC, for Emanuel
'But I do not always want to be on meds!' I have heard it countless times from so many people . . . from my street bodyguard1, the Duke of Earl, to my children to friends, to others I serve. It all starts with their own nagging question right beneath the surface at all times: why do I have anxiety? Or 'Why do I battle depression?' After all, both run rampant in our culture; both are a real factor in Millennials. I think to myself WWJS? What would Jesus say about his children battling these? Quite a bit, I do believe.
And so I start with this prayer for you:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, we start with hope! There is hope for life, hope for living because of our loving God . . . hope for whatever concerns us, including anxiety and depression, our own or our loved ones'.
Someone asked me the other day if being diagnosed with anxiety means always being on meds . . . maybe, maybe not. Everyone's brain chemistry is different.
(Stop the presses! I sometimes wonder what the big deal is about having to take meds. Following thyroid cancer and a thyroidectomy, I will have to take Synthroid every day for the rest of my life. Who really cares? I'm grateful there is such a medicine to make up for my lack of a thyroid. Diabetic? Do you throw a fit that insulin is part of your routine? I hope not. So why do we attach stigma to necessary anti-depressants or the like?) Remember, I am not talking here about situational nervousness, but rather something triggered by brain chemistry over which there is sometimes little control - at least without assistance. But as my Texas friend says, 'either which way' - or whether or not you have these challenges, there is a setup for success. You might think of it as the right prescription, the best cocktail or just the right recipe; 'either which way' it includes several critical elements.
The first key ingredient is faith in God, and not just an acknowledgment that there is a God, but making a choice to get to know him, staying so close it is as though we are walking in the dust of the Rabbi, (that one who hails from Nazareth ... hey, wanna go to Nazareth with me in November??).
A personal relationship with God means we are not in this life alone...ever.
Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.2
And the above sentiment of Paul. that the God of hope would fill us with joy and peace, comes as we trust in Christ as Savior, because then the Holy Spirit of God can fill us with hope! We are not just left to our own devices but have the supernatural power of God active in our lives.
Second, we access that power by being with Jesus. Drawing the disciples' attention to the flourishing fruit of the grapes on the vine, Jesus said, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."3 Abiding is choosing to be with Jesus - in thought, in word, in deed - choosing to stick close.
And then, Friend, you and I must discipline ourselves. I can see that young man's face right now, can read the thoughts coursing through his ever-moving mind: 'yeah well, I have no problem disciplining myself in my sport; heck, I am always pushing myself to go harder, intrinsically motivated ...yeah, I'm disciplined!'
'I see that in you, really I do, but how about when you go out with your friends ... your love of alcohol?' You see, our best selves come as a dint of discipline in all areas of our lives. True that.'
Whether contending with anxiety or not, disciplined living becomes us, it sets us up for success.
And not only are we able to exercise discipline, but we must!
Several are saying, 'Seriously? I have never been able to discipline myself a day in my life-well except for maybe keeping a clean house!' Ah, but you can. You see, it is through our relationship with God and the power we access in the Holy Spirit, that the fruit of discipline is born. Some folks discipline themselves in business, (doing what it takes to 'arrive'), but their personal lives are in shambles; this ought not be so.
"It doesn't matter whether you are pursuing success in business,
sports, the arts, or life in general:
The bridge between wishing and accomplishing is discipline."4
The setup for success in our lives must then include disciplining ourselves through faith practicesand taking care of the gift of life we have been given through exercise, good nutritionand rest, and formulating valuable relationships. Here's the thing:
~>in my life, I do not want to be limited through my own lack of discipline.
I close today by making an appeal to you: would you embody the heart of a warrior, the heart of the apostle Paul who spoke of disciplining his own body? Paul lived in the time of the Isthmian Games, kinda like the Olympics; he knew what it took to win. But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service].
God, won't you draw us in faith and relationship toward you? And will you show us where, in what ways, we need to seek out discipline? AMEN.
1 - The Duke of Earl provided me with some level of security to do street ministry all over the city of Long Beach
2 - Hebrews 13.5
3 - John 15.7, ESV
4 - Harvey Mackay, businessman, author, columnist
5 - 1 Corinthians 9.27, AMP