Sunday, January 4, 2015

Perfect Love

There is a desire that has been on the increase in my heart for awhile now. That desire is to see women living out their full potential, living in the abundant life in Christ, fulfilling their God given destiny and calling over them with confidence and boldness. I'm seeing more and more women living in defeat, living in fear, missing out on this incredible love of Christ! We, as women, need to rise up and stand together. To lift each other up, and stop comparing ourselves to one another, and begin drawing from each others strengths. To stop being intimidated by one another, but strengthened by one another. No condemnation! No fear! And this, is where this post is coming from. Because I was there. There are days when I'm tempted to go there again, and days when I do go there again. Because the enemy is constantly shouting lies at me, and I need my sisters to stand up with me against those lies and help me to stand firm in the faith, as I will for you.

This post is personal for me. I lived much of my life in depression and anxiety, and this is my heart for women struggling with the same thing.

 Depression, anxiety...and a host of other mental illnesses. Real, personal, suffering, life altering, deep, dark. In our humanness, a hopeless, life long battle. But, dare I say, instead of manageable...conquerable?

For those suffering in this way, what does 2 Timothy 1:7 mean for them? "For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

What does Jesus mean for them when He says, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners."

And what about the following verses?

 Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

Galatians 5:1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

2 Corinthians 3:17, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

John 8:31-32, "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

Psalm 103:2-4, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with loving kindness and compassion;"

Psalm 71:20b, "You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up."

I struggled through depression for many years. I functioned ok, and I had my highs, but I had extreme lows. When asked to describe how it felt, the only thing I could think of was a deep, black pit with no hope of ever getting out. I felt completely out of control like something was holding me there. I would come out for awhile, but inevitably I'd sink back in. It was a constant struggle. People were there for me when I needed them, tried to be understanding, and show me compassion. And, I needed that! They helped get me through another day. Yet, I remained in my hopelessness. No one offered me hope. No one spoke truth over me, or stood firm in the faith for me. They just allowed me to remain there. They said things like, "God has entrusted this suffering to you" and "how beautiful it is that you push through despite this," and "He is glorified through your depression." Then, as David said in the Psalms, I cried out to God and He answered me.  Jesus broke through. 

Jesus says that He is the "light of the world." He shone a light in my darkness, and He began to speak truth over my life. He began to show me the truth of what God's Word says about me. He showed me what I looked like through the eyes of a loving Father who gave His very Son to give me new and abundant life.

John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly."

The enemy came to destroy me, and began to devour me. But Jesus reminded me that He gave me life MORE abundantly. That little word "more," carries the meaning of continuous increase. I could increase in my depression and continue to sink "more and more" into my depression. I could accept it as my life long battle, and strive to have faith despite it all. Or I could do a 180 and increase in the abundant life that Jesus paid such a high price for. 

Did I need a slap upside the head and a "get over it!" speech? or did I need to be coddled and given the "God gave this to you to strengthen you" speech? Honestly, neither. I needed comfort and compassion, and I needed truth spoken over me. I needed faith instead of fear. I needed someone to step in and begin to break the stronghold of depression and anxiety over my life. Did someone do that for me? Honestly. No. But, I cried out the Lord and in His faithfulness, His Grace and Mercy, He rescued me. He "restore(d) my life again; from the depths of the earth..." (Psalm 71:20b). 

What was that truth that He spoke over me, that He showed me in His Word that brought me up out of that hopelessness?

 He began to show me what I looked like through the eyes of a loving Father who gave His very Son to set me free. He gave His Son to pay for sin and death so I could receive His very Spirit! He began to show me all I am in Christ. I am not hopeless because I have eternal life. I am not defined by depression. I am a child of the living God! I have been seated in the heavenly realms, filled to the measure of the fullness of God! He gave me hope. He gave me purpose. He gave me HIS unconditional love.

In the darkness, there is fear. So much of my life, I spent in fear. Fear that I would never get out of the darkness, and strangely enough fear of leaving the darkness. I began to believe the lie that this was a struggle that God gave me to grow me and show His glory through me. I began to believe that this was something that I would just have to live with the rest of my life, but could be victorious through it as if God had entrusted me with some "gift of suffering" called "depression." My brothers and sisters, that was a lie from Satan! Stop being deceived! We have a faithful, loving Father who has clearly said over and over in His Word that He sent His Son to give us LIFE, and not just a stagnant life, but a Life MORE abundantly!! HIS very life IN us! An abundant life that is meant to continually increase! So, if God didn't give this to me, and I can't console myself with the thought that He ordained this and I can continue to "suffer victoriously" through this, than why am I here in this pit? Take a look at the first part of John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..." Satan wants us to remain in our weakness, but God says that we go from "strength to strength." If Satan can get us to believe that this is something we have to live with because it's from God, then He can steal the power and authority that Christ gave you. It is YOURS! Don't give it up! Don't hand over your birthright to the enemy! We have to stop looking at depression, anxiety, and mental disorder through the lens of the world, through the lens of our humanity. We have to put on our spiritual lenses and see these struggles through the Word of God. So what does the Word say? 

Ephesians 6:11-13, "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.…"

Through my human thinking, and what the world likes to label as mental disorder, I would look at my situation as a flesh and blood struggle. But God says that my struggle isn't against flesh and blood, but it is against spiritual forces of evil. So, if He says in John 10:10 that enemy has come to kill, steal and destroy, but He has come to give life MORE abundantly, and in Ephesians says that my struggle isn't against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil, then I need to put on my spiritual lenses and stand firm against those schemes of the devil. 1 Peter 5 says that the devil is like a roaring lion, seeking who He may devour. But, He has give us His very Spirit. He has given us HIS armor so we can stand firm, and resist the devil! 

What does this mean for someone with depression and anxiety? It means there is hope! God doesn't expect you to live with this. God says He has given you LIFE abundant! He desires to see you walk in that abundance in Christ, to not just know you have all spiritual blessings, but to experience all spiritual blessings! He wants you to know that He is a loving Father who did NOT give you depression! The enemy is doing that to you! Don't let him! Deliverance can come quickly for some, but for many deliverance is not an overnight thing. It takes time, faith, endurance, patience, and completely saturating yourself in the Word of truth and light and standing firm against the enemy by declaring truth when the lies try to destroy you. There were nights when I was on my knees in the darkness, crumbling under the lies, and crying out with all that is in me "NO!! I AM a child of the living God! You have NO authority here! I have been given ALL authority in Christ and no one can take that authority from me without my permission!" I had to declare the blood of Christ over myself and claim that freedom that I so ignorantly gave away for far too long. For some it is a long road to recovery and complete healing and freedom, but know this. There IS Hope! There IS Light! His Name is Jesus, and He has come to bind the broken hearted and set the captives FREE! "The truth will set you Free!" (John 8:32)

The world calls it depression, but I think a more accurate word based on reading in the Word that this is a spiritual battle, not a fleshly battle, would be "oppression." We are oppressed by the enemy, not by God. But we don't have to be! We, as believers, need to get down on our knees in  battle with those in the pit. To come along side in compassion and love, to show them the love of Christ that surpasses all understanding. To stop buying in to the lies and declare His Word of truth over them. To stand firm along side them, so they too can be strengthened and lifted up out of that pit to stand. "To know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance IN His Holy people." (Eph 1:18) To walk with them through this battle so they can truly know with all their heart what it means when He says, He has not given us a "spirit of fear, but of POWER, and LOVE, and a SOUND MIND."

Ultimately what brought me out of that pit was the unconditional love of Christ! What kept me out of the pit was the knowledge of Ephesians 6:11-13 to put on the full armor of God so I could resist the evil and stand firm.

It was a process. One where God had compassion for me, not condemnation. Romans 8:1-2,"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.…" 
One where He came right down in the depths with me, wrapped His arms around me and showed me with His unfailing love. One where, He held up a mirror and showed me the image of His Son, perfect, pure and righteous. Holy and blameless. One where He drove out my fear with His love, and placed His armor on me so I could learn to stand firm and victorious. We are more than conquerors through Christ! (Romans 8:37)

I will end with a paragraph by Beth Moore, followed by my prayer for you.

"The God who beckons you to love more and more cannot love you more. No matter how you grow in diligence and obedience, you cannot increase His affection for you. No matter how faithful you become, you won't get a boost in your love-ability. At your darkest moment, you were loved to the fullest measure; the same is true at your lightest moment. You and I have no power to affect divine love. It is perfect. All we are left to do is ask to know it more and more. And right there in the increase, a miracle of decrease if forced into play; as we are more and more aware of His love, we fear less and less. For "perfect love drives out fear." (1 John 4:18)." - Beth Moore ("Children of the Day, 1&2 Thessalonians)

My prayer for you in Ephesians 1 and 3:

(photos from Christine Caine's facebook posts)