Renewing My Mind

By: Brett Carey, Worship Leader

brett

Photo by: Ben McKeown

 

 

I would like to dedicate this post to my Mom, my roommate Tanner, and my best friend Caleb as they have inspired the words I wrote for this.

As I’m thinking about how to start these thoughts, I reflect upon this past season of life. I feel as if I’ve turned into a hollow body. It’s easy to move my limbs as if I’m a functioning human, when really I feel emptiness on the inside. One of my closest friends, Tanner Nickell, wrote a poem that has a line that rings in my head constantly. “Maybe this is what normal is, just the right amount of apathy.” These words are penned in my head like the sounds of screaming silence. For those of you who didn’t pick up on that, “screaming silence” is almost oxymoronic, or maybe it’s a metaphor.

Throughout the years, I’ve felt that the closer to God I got, I would start to feel further and further from Him. I remember all of the crazy testimonies where people would rave about the most terrible situation that anyone can think of, but God still saved them from this horrible life they were living. Honestly that is great, and I praise God for those testimonies, but my depressive mind likes to twist this reality. My thoughts will try to tell me that I haven’t been through the worst of it so I haven’t truly experienced the fullness of God’s redemptive glory. The best way that I can describe this is by quoting a line from a song that I wrote recently. “I’m so tired this morning, because I’ve been locked out of my head. Jesus saves those in mourning, I fear I’m not there yet.”

Believing that I don’t experience any pain worthy of God’s redemptive glory is a self-defeating cycle and it’s one that is hard to shake off. I’ve tried to force the “just be happy” mindset, but I find that I don’t have much strength to keep that act up. For some reason, it’s easy for me to think that if I just treat my symptoms that I’ll be better, but it never works. Fortunately, my good friend Caleb Anderson recently reminded me about this reality. He said to me, “You can try to force yourself to be better, but you need to get to the root of the problem. Sin and pain stem from the heart and mind, and the way to get better is to pray for God to renew our minds.” Caleb is absolutely right about that. I can force myself to behave anyway I want, but that still won’t change my heart’s desires. Only God can change my heart and mind.

My prayer for all of us is that God will do just that. This is a prayer that I try to pray for myself every morning, and I know of other people in my life who do the same for them as well as other people, and I praise God for those people.

Romans 12:2 “2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Ezekiel 36:26 “26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

 

 

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Pain, Depression, and Where Jesus Is

By: Brett Carey, Worship Leader

One of the shortest passages in the entire Bible is also one of my favorites. It is a fairly well-known passage found in the Gospel of John. The single verse is simply, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) This passage was always jokingly my favorite passage due to its length and content, but lately it has revealed an entire new reality for me.

I never understood depression until a few years ago. There wasn’t a specific day where I felt like the depression train hit me, but maybe the train was going a lot slower than I realized. Maybe it was the day that I woke up and decided that sleep was better than going to class. Maybe it was the day that I decided I must be a worthless human being. Maybe it was the day that I decided pain was enjoyable. Maybe it was the day I decided I deserved hell. Or, just maybe it was the day I realized that I was experiencing hell. My entire world was starting to crumble before me.

Growing up, there was a mindset instilled in me that pain is a bad thing, and either you are on your deathbed or everything in your life is fine. This message didn’t only come from parents, but even the church as well. “Everything is great, with Jesus!” “You can’t be sad, because God has everything taken care of!” Who would have guessed that forcing oneself to not allow pain is pain in and of itself?

Anytime I felt sad about something, I would immediately go to, “well I have all of these things so I can’t be sad.” There could be a person who has lived the same exact life as me, felt the same exact pain as me, yet was born with only one eyebrow, to which I would say, “Well he experiences real pain and I don’t, because I have both of my eyebrows, so I shouldn’t feel bad.” Experiencing depression like this creates a truly twisted kind of circulatory-thinking: “I am sad, but I have nothing to be sad about because my life is so great, so I need to experience real pain to actually be sad, but now that I’ve experienced that pain I am still sad, but I can’t be sad because my life is so great.” Goodness, that is mentally tiring.

Unfortunately a lot of Christians actually believe that they have to be happy all of the time, that pain means that you aren’t experiencing the fullness of Joy from God, and so to feel pain is a bad thing. Oh my goodness. Let that reality sink in.

On top of that, we live in a culture where people actually believe that busyness makes you a more important human being. That not having time for friends or family is a good thing. Being in the moment is a lost art.

So here I am, finally willing to admit that I am depressed. I went to see a counselor and I started ranting about how I was frustrated with our culture. I talked about how I felt that I shouldn’t feel pain. Needless to say, I was becoming angry. Until the counselor said something that took my breath away. Call it a God moment, if you will. “Jesus wept.”

Jesus was hanging out with His disciples and said to them, “Lazarus is sleeping and we need to wake him up.” So, Jesus and His men made the journey to visit Lazarus and his family. Once they arrived, Jesus was approached by one of Lazarus’ sisters. As one would expect, she started asking Jesus why He wasn’t there for Lazarus, because Jesus could have prevented this death from happening. Jesus’ spirit was broken at her sadness, and asked where they had laid Lazarus’ body so He could see it for Himself. After they showed Jesus where Lazarus had been laid, Jesus wept.

Now there is a lot that is going into that moment of Jesus weeping. Jesus entered this situation by already knowing that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. It’s like watching It’s A Wonderful Life for the second time. You aren’t as concerned for characters because you know that in the end, the Angel will always get its wings. But we also have to keep in mind that Jesus descended to earth to be an emotional human being. What this means is that in spite of knowing that Lazarus would be alive within a few minutes, Jesus allowed Himself to be in the moment and feel pain.

We spend our days busying ourselves so we don’t have to focus on the pain in our lives. I believe this often happens in church, where the ones who are most active and busy are often considered the most “God-honoring”. There were nights when I would fear sleep, because I would dream about the pain that I spent all of my time trying to not think about. Pain is scary, and Christians don’t want to admit that they have pain while receiving the Love of God. Yet, we have a God who is willing to experience pain Himself. Jesus was so in the moment that He allowed Himself to weep.

Maybe, if we allowed ourselves to be more honest and open, we could start dealing with the pain that we feel. Maybe, if we allowed ourselves to be broken people, we could allow God to fix our brokenness.

After Jesus wept for His dear friend, the people around Him said to one another, “Look how He loved him.” Jesus has such an incredible love for you that He went through the worst pain possible. It wasn’t just being on the cross, but allowing every sin to be cast upon Him, so much so that God Himself abandoned Jesus, because God and sin cannot have their presences exist together.

Once we open up about pain, we can start to allow God’s love to fill us in new ways. I cannot say that my depression is “cured.” I still have days where existence is a struggle. But, what I can say is that I have never felt more loved by God, knowing that He is right there with me in my pain.