A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Reality Check

a spirit of truth

Before delving into my story, I want to give you a quiz. Having a degree and experience in teaching, I will always be a teacher at heart. Here goes:

1. You are camping at Indian Hollow and someone allergic to bees is stung by one. What do you do?

A. Tell the person who was stung, “Just have faith and renounce the bee and all its devilish powers and it will not have a hold on you.”

B. Run for the person’s epipen as fast as you can and administer the needed medicine to counteract the allergic reaction.

2. You are having lunch with a friend and she starts having an asthma attack. What do you do?

A. You rebuke your friend for having such little faith and command her “to just get over it and stop it.”

B. Help your friend to find her inhaler in her “bottomless” handbag.

3. You are visiting your uncle who has diabetes and is showing signs of having low blood sugar [sweating, becoming sleepy and disoriented]. What do you do?

A. Tell him to take charge of his life and his pancreas and order the “diabetic demon” to leave and never return.

B.. Quickly find some orange juice, ice cream, candy or anything with sugar and give it to him. If he does not get better, call 911.

facts

Hopefully, you have realized that the “A” answers are totally absurd and the “B” answers are the correct answers. In the 21st century, our society, as the Christian Church included, still stigmatizes mental illness in all of its forms, including clinical [severe] depression. Many fail to understand that clinical depression is caused by a physical problem, namely a chemical imbalance in the brain, which needs medical intervention. People, including brothers and sisters in Christ, not only battle with clinical depression, but they also battle with the misconceptions people still believe about severe depression. Sadly, this wrong way of thinking includes people who profess Christ as their Savior and Lord. Because of these wrong thinking Christians who deal with clinical depression feel something is wrong with their character, they lack faith and they are embarrassed to talk about their sickness because they are told they “just need to try harder to feel better.” Christians are told by other Christians that they need to have faith and “look at the bright side of things and not be so negative all the time.” They feel ashamed for not being able to “give their problems over to God and believe in His promises and live by faith.” All these exhortations causing false guilt and shame are not only wrong, but they are also extremely harmful and irresponsible and just plain wrong. It is very important to understand, whether you are a Christian friend or a Christian counselor, clinical depression is an illness and, as in the case of any illness, it needs to be treated medically. This includes may include taking medication and undergoing other forms of medical treatment and therapies.

APOSTLE Paul

II Timothy 1:7 is often quoted in church, at Bible studies and by people who think they are “helping“ someone to “get a grip” and move on with his/her life : “…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

When was the last time you heard I Timothy 5:23 quoted: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”

pepto bismol

(There was no Pepto Bismol back in the day)

II Timothy 1:7 is a goal we pray to become our way of life. Being controlled by the Holy Spirit is what we pray to obtain. The Holy Spirit is doing a sanctifying work in our lives and that takes time. In I Timothy I:7, Paul wrote an aside and gave some fatherly advice to Timothy. He told Timothy to drink wine which, among other things, was used for medicinal purposes. Paul knew of Timothy’s many stomach ailments, possibly due to stress. It is interesting that Paul did not rebuke Timothy for being sick all the time and remove him from his position of leadership in the Church.

Paul himself wrote about his spiritual journey and admitted that he did not fully understand “the power of the resurrection” in his life:

empty tomb

“- that I may know [Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by as many means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead. NOT THAT I ALREADY OBTAINED THIS OR AM ALREADY PERFECT, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own” [Philippians 3:10-12].

I believe Paul had his own need for medical treatment. He was familiar with illness and pain from physical persecution. I believe we don’t know his exact illness [“thorn in the flesh”] because God wants us to apply II Corinthians 12:8-10 to our own situation:

God's Way

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this [thorn in the flesh], that it would leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.”

Some people, Christians included, believe that having to take any kind of medication is a weakness. They are prideful of the fact that they do not need any doctors or have to take any medication [yet], as if they are totally responsible for their own good health. But, when we acknowledge our weaknesses and our dependency on God, that is the time we experience God’s sufficiency and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses, because we place ourselves in a position in which we can be helped. That is why Paul is able to exclaim, “FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.” Having his own ailments from beatings and imprisonments, Paul needed medical attention. That is why, I believe, he traveled with Luke, who was “the beloved physician” [See Colossians 4:14].

Not having to take any medication, as though it is in our control, is not something to boast about. It is something to thank God for because He is the One who is in control of our lives. There is something much more important to boast about:

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty [healthy] man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,’ declares the LORD” [Jeremiah 9:23-24].

To be continued…

“For, Lo, the winter is past.

the rain is over and gone;

the flowers appear on the earth;

the time of the singing of birds

is come.”

(from Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

Cherry Tree and Forsythia Bush 3robin and nest

Lydia

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A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Introduction

CC Congregation

[“A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part I)” was written on March 3, 2015. If you wish to read it, you may go to https://lydslookonlife.wordpress.com and scroll down to find it. If you are already in my blog, you just have to scroll down to the post written on March 3, 2015. I waited until now to write “Part II” because I wanted to wait until I gave my “Testimony of God’s grace (Part II)” during a Sunday morning worship service, at my church, on May 3, 2015.]

bible book

What if I asked you, “What is your favorite book of the Bible?” This is just a hunch, but I’m guessing that not many of you, if any at all, would answer, “The Book of Lamentations.” I don‘t blame you. I myself am a Book of Numbers person —JUST KIDDING!!!

“Lamentation” means “funeral song” or “dirge.” The Book of Lamentations consists of five funeral songs probably written by the prophet Jeremiah shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah “laments” over the loss of Jerusalem and the Temple of God, and mourns over the loss of a nation – God’s nation of Judah. Each chapter is a funeral dirge. But wait! There’s more.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Even though The Book of Lamentations may not make my “Top Five” most read books of the Bible, Chapter 3 contains the words of one of my favorite hymns: “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” In Lamentations, “Song 3” in the middle of Jeremiah’s graphic word pictures describing his sorrow over the suffering he sees and experiences, he also speaks of how God will use these times of grief to produce hope in a righteous God who is full of compassion and mercy. Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3: 19 -23:

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. BUT, this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases: His mercies never come to an end: They are new every morning; GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS.”

STEADFAST LOVE

In the midst of his anguish and even because of all he is going through, God reveals Himself to Jeremiah as the God of hope, steadfast love, endless mercy and great faithfulness. The Book Lamentations teaches us to be honest with one another in good times and in bad. It also teaches us to pray for one another, believing that God will answer our prayers in his perfect time.

masks we wear

Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, once said, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” Manning also is quoted to say, “There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.” This is why I am writing “A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II).” There is something more I need to share with you. I pray that what I am about to share in the coming weeks will be glorifying to God and life-giving to all who read these blog posts.

mickey mouse wink
In “Part I” what I shared was mostly the “good stuff.” In “Part II” I’m going to share “the rest of the story.” If I were to say to you, “When I became a Christian [when the Lord Jesus grabbed hold of my heart] at the age of eighteen, there has been nothing but “smooth sailing” ever since, what would you think? Hopefully, you would know that I was telling you a fairy tale. If not, I have some prime swamp land in Florida to sell you, near the Magic Kingdom, owned by Mickey Mouse. Jesus did not tell us that once we start following Him, all our struggles will disappear and we will “live happily ever after.” In John 16:33b, Jesus tells His disciples [that includes us], “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus promises to be with us in our trials, help us through them and never leave us or forsake us. Jesus tells us, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” [John 10:14-15, 27-28].

Christ the Shepherd

I know now, more than ever before, that Jesus is my Good Shepherd and that no one, not even the devil himself, is able to snatch me away from Jesus’ strong grip on my life. I know this to be true because of what happened to me in 2012. According to the Mayan culture and its Mesoamerican calendar, 2012 [December 21, 2012 to be exact] was to be the end of the world. 2012 was almost the end of me. In sharing “the rest of my story,” I pray God will use it to help others who are going through the same type of struggles; to give you hope and encourage you to find the help you need.

To be continued…

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The Lyd

Lydia