Tag Archives: depression

Pain in the Background

Behind all the joyful smiles, for some the holiday season is a deeply painful season. Perhaps it is because of loneliness, painful family memories, or loss. If you are suffering during this season of celebration, you are not alone!

A few years ago my friend, author Holley Gerth, stopped by to talk about what it means to celebrate even when life is difficult or painful. I hope this excerpt from our 2011 interview provides you with hope.

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(From December 2011)

Holley-pic-NEW-2You may have heard of Holley Gerth — she’s got a hugely popular blog called “Heart to Heart with Holley.” She’s the author of Rain on Me, God’s Heart for You, and You’re Already Amazing. She’s also created thousands of greeting cards and gifts for DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark and is the cofounder of their web site for women, (in)courage. Holley shares her heart and home with Mark and a crazy dog.

I’m sure you’ll be encouraged and inspired by her honest words.  Keep reading . . . 

Holley, tell my readers about yourself!

I love chocolate, coffee, my husband, and Jesus (not in that order). I’m not a morning person—I once put chocolate on the alarm clock to bribe myself to get up. I ate it and went back to bed. Yes, ma’am. But I married an early bird so I’m learning to change my ways. I’m named after my Grandpa Hollie. He and my Grandma had a  Christian bookstore so I grew up dreaming of being a writer. Being able to share God’s heart with women through words is my passion and I feel so grateful to be able to do so every day. It’s the next best thing to having coffee with all of my readers—which I would do if I could!

This month we’re looking at the twin spiritual disciplines of worship and celebration. In a very basic sense, I define them as praising and thanking God for who he is (worship); and praising and thanking God for what he does (celebration). Why do you think these disciplines are important?

Our church service last night was actually about worship and how it transforms us. The pastor talked about how closely the word “worship” is related to “service” in Greek and Hebrew.Over time I’ve come to see worship not as what we do at church but as a lifestyle of serving Jesus. To me, worship means bowing our hearts to God and saying, “I’m your servant. Use me as little or as much as you want.” That’s actually the prayer I say each morning as I get ready to write. I’ve also started writing what I’m thankful for in a journal each day. I use an unlined journal and draw all kinds of crazy pictures and things. But it works for me.

I recently read that our brains have a natural “negativity bias.” In other words, we tend to focus on and remember what’s negative better. That is a gift from God to help us survive (for example, focusing more on the bear charging out of the woods than the lovely flower behind it). But on a day-to-day basis, it means that we have to be intentional about refocusing our hearts and attention. We don’t need to feel guilty about our tendency to be negative but we do need to recognize it and change it through worship and gratitude. What’s amazing is that our brains literally rewire themselves as we think new thoughts. We actually create new neural pathways and are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Wow — Yes! Celebration can take many forms — gratitude, joy, prayer, praise, feasting, and more. When has celebration made a difference in your life?

I feel like this has been a year of learning to embrace joy in my life. Continue reading

Present . . . in Pain?

Is God present in heartache? In sadness? In times of fear and doubt?

woman praying:cryingSometimes, no matter how hard we try, we cannot seem to “find” God. We may be seeking God out, trying to connect, praying, singing, desperately crying out, and . . .

nothing.

 Is God present even in these periods – these “dark nights of the soul”? Scripture honestly acknowledges experiences like these. Consider Psalm 88 – a discouraging, heart-wrenching statement of utter desolation. It ends without hope. Yet it gives me hope. . .  because it shows God’s Word honestly acknowledging this common experience in the journey of faith. If you are in a dark period, take heart! And also read this article, “Growing in the Dark,” from my friend Lesa Engelthaler.

Is God present when we face fear – when we get the answer, the news, the diagnosis that tells us our worse nightmare is coming true? How can we experience God’s presence even in totally scary experiences? Check out this post I wrote several years ago about a scary time our family went through and a practice that can help us experience God’s nearness in the face of looming bad news.

Also, stay tuned to this blog because next week my friend Charity Singleton Craig — a writer and courageous cancer survivor — will stop in to share about her own experiences of God’s faithful presence.

Spiritual Wholeness, Mental Illness? (Part 2)

Amy Simpson is an author, editor, and leader — and to me she’s a friend, mentor, former boss, and an inspiration! Amy’s written a book about mental illness and the church called Troubled Minds. Today Amy joins me for part 2 of our interview about wholeness, suffering, and hope. (Read part 1 of our interview by clicking here.) 

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Troubled Minds #4304 CoverYour new book Troubled Minds addresses the issue of mental illness and the church — and your passion for this topic comes out of your own personal story of growing up with a mother who suffers from schizophrenia. In what ways did your difficult family experiences shape your sense of self and your view of faith, either positively or negatively?

Like many other families that go through similar experiences, our family life revolved around Mom and her illness. The rest of us had to put our emotional lives on the back burner to keep the peace and avoid stress and conflict at home. We didn’t talk much about what was happening with her. And because we didn’t feel it was OK to discuss mental illness with others, we mostly kept quiet about it when we were away from home too. We felt very isolated, as if we were the only ones going through the experience.

I learned to shut off my negative emotions because they were just too overwhelming for me—and frankly, we couldn’t afford for anyone else in our family to be struggling. Over time, I lost the ability to fully experience emotion of any kind, and I had to learn to embrace my emotions and my own needs as I worked toward healing. Continue reading

Spiritual Wholeness, Mental Illness? (Part 1)

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amy Simpson — a great friend and colleague I’ve known and worked with for years. Amy has recently — courageously — written a book exploring an issue she’s dealt with in her own family life: mental illness. Most of you, readers, have either personally known someone suffering from mental illness (or a friend of a friend) or have gone through some form of mental illness yourself (such as depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders and panic attacks, Seasonal Affective Disorder, PPD, etc.). It’s a surprisingly common pain that touches many lives. Yet it’s so rarely talked about openly in Christian circles . . . why? Join me in this 2-part conversation with Amy about “wholeness” (healing, grace, confidence, identity, faith), mental illness, and her new book Troubled Minds (InterVarsity Press).

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DSC_0043 HeadshotAmy, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

I’m a passionate leader and communicator who loves to encourage Christ’s church and its people to discern and fulfill their calling in this life. I do this in a few ways. With my husband, I’m raising two kids to follow Christ. I also serve as editor for Christianity Today’s GiftedForLeadership.com and the editor of marriage and parenting resources for Today’s Christian Woman. And I’m a freelance writer and author; my most recent book is Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission.

Troubled Minds #4304 CoverThis month on my blog we’re looking at the idea of being “whole”–and, inevitably, this means also looking honestly at the brokenness in our lives. One quite common experience of brokenness that many women go through is depression. Other forms of mental illness are also common. Yet we often keep problems like these hidden away, behind a facade. Why do you think we hide these kinds of struggles?

This is very common for several reasons. Here are a few:

In our culture, many people think God owes us a happy and comfortable life. So struggling with our mental health can be deeply disappointing and confusing, and it can be very hard for us to even acknowledge to ourselves that our lives don’t measure up to what we thought we deserved.

But mental illness doesn’t mean God has broken his promises to us. Despite what our culture suggests, comfort, happiness, and perfect health are not our natural state. God has not promised them to us in this life, and he doesn’t owe us anything. In fact, humanity forfeited our claim on a perfect world way back at the beginning, when we chose to reject God’s rule—and we have been making this choice ever since. Jesus didn’t promise us health in this life, nor problem-free living. In fact, he guaranteed us we would suffer: Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33). Suffering is not unusual and should not surprise us. What is shocking is that despite our sorry condition, we have hope. “But take heart,” Jesus said, “because I have overcome the world.”

Another reason people stay quiet is because they believe the lie that mental illness is an indication of spiritual or religious failure. They don’t want to admit that they just can’t measure up to God’s expectations, when the people around them seem to be doing just fine. But mental illness generally is not a spiritual problem (although the mind certainly can affect the spirit, and vice versa). A person with a mental illness has just that—an illness. While spiritual practices like prayer and Bible reading can help facilitate and support healing, illnesses require treatment. Besides, God does not hold himself out of reach and demand that we earn his grace or demonstrate that we’re good enough for his healing touch. Jesus asked “all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens” to come to him and “find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). He condemned legalistic religious leaders, “For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Luke 11:46). Following Jesus may not be easy, but it’s not a religious burden. If someone tells you your suffering would end if only you were a better Christian, that message is not from God.

A third reason is because mental illness is heavily stigmatized. Continue reading

Summer Reading

Friends, I was so excited when I clicked open this article from Today’s Christian Woman and saw Embrace Your Worth — my new devotional book about identity, self-image, self-worth, confidence, and calling — recommended. What an honor! I thought I’d share this list with you because it has lots of great recommendations.

Also, next week one of the authors from the TCW list — and a good friend of mine — will be stopping by this blog for an interview. Amy Simpson (my former boss and an all around awesome person!) will be here to talk about her new book Troubled Minds and the difficult but important topic of mental illness. One in four adults suffer from mental illness — so chances are that you or someone you love are either dealing with a mental illness or navigating a relationship with someone who is suffering in this way. How can we approach this difficult issue? How does it relate to our spiritual wholeness — our faith, identity, and the grace of God? Be sure to swing by on Monday to read our conversation!

Joy Weaves Through

loomLike a brilliant golden thread, joy weaves in and out of our lives. It weaves through the bright days—the orange and yellow moments. The poppy-red delights. The verdant, green, fresh-growth days.

It weaves through the gray days—the blah-blah, mundane moments.

And it even weaves through the dark. Through indigo grief. Through rusted, worn-out umber seasons. Through thunderous, slate gray periods of anger or bitterness. Through jet black discouragement, heavy-weighted with a sense of hopelessness.

A shock of brilliant joy dances through it all. Woven in and out.

Because, for the Christian, joy has a name.

And he has other names too.

“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).

“I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me . . . rivers of living water will flow within them” (John 7:37-38).

“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

We can choose joy in our life when we purposefully cultivate habits of worship, of gratitude, of intimacy with God. But we cannot manufacture joy. It’s more than a feeling or a state of mind. Continue reading

What (Really) is Joy?

laughingJoy. Can you picture it? What image comes to mind? What memory from your life? What does it sound like? Feel like? How would you define or explain it?

Merriam-Webster defines it as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune; a state of happiness or felicity; a source or cause of delight.”

The dictionary is onto something here. Joy certainly is associated with these feelings—and I love the idea of “felicity” and “delight.”

But joy, for the Christian, is something that runs a lot deeper than feelings or emotions. Dallas Willard explained joy as a “pervasive sense of well-being.” Something deep down within us, throughout us, that touches each part of who we are, echoing that we are well. In fact, in Christ, we are well even when life is going completely wrong. This is circumstance-defying joy.

In my research for Restore Your Joy, I came across something really cool. Here’s a short quote from the book: Chairo  is an important New Testament Greek word that means ‘to be glad and full of joy.’ Chairo is most often translated as ‘rejoice’; chara, a related word, is translated as ‘joy.’ Both are closely linked etymologically to charis which means ‘grace.’ As linguistic cognates, these three words ‘share the same root and therefore the same core (fundamental) meaning.’” 

Isn’t that awesome? Joy, rejoicing (worship), and grace are linked in their core meaning—they’re interconnected in the soul of the Christian. Joy can be present even in dark times because grace is there even in dark times. Grace itself defies the darkness—illuminates it and pushes the shadow into the corners. The brilliant grace of God forgives fully, offers hope, picks us up, renews our strength, affirms our worth, and empowers us to live fully. Continue reading

Joy’s Prerequisite

This month of May — of springtime and blooms, of rain and fresh growth — we’ll focus on JOY here on my blog.

Joy, at times, comes naturally . . . instinctively. Smiles and laughter bubble up from somewhere inside us — from a spring of deep joy.

At other times, joy requires effort. The spring has run dry. Joy seems absent — like it fled away and is long gone. When life hurts, joy is not easy.

Restore Your Joy-2My new Flourishing Faith book Restore Your Joy looks closely at what Scripture says about joy: how it’s different than happiness, how it’s something we chose, how it’s something we can cultivate and grow. Joy, in fact, can supernaturally defy our bleak circumstances.

Do you long for greater joy? For deeper joy? For joy to be a characteristic of who you are, flowing from your life in Christ? Then join in the conversation this month. And let’s begin with a short excerpt from Restore Your Joy that reflects on one of the most preposterous passages of Scripture . . .

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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

What?! Is James urging believers to live in a Christian la-la-land that’s out of touch with reality or that denies our actual human experience of pain and hurt?

Certainly not.

family handsThis goes much, much deeper. Underlying the choice to consider a trial a source of joy is an essential ingredient of the Christian life: trust.

A belief that God is sovereign, God is in control, and God is love enables the Christian to find light in darkness, joy in sadness, and hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

“Only love empowers the leap in trust, the courage to risk everything on Jesus, the readiness to move into the darkness guided only by a pillar of fire,” wrote Brennan Manning. “The love of Christ inspires trust to thank God for the nagging headache, the arthritis that is so painful, the spiritual darkness that envelops us.”

When we’re in the headache or the pain or enveloped by darkness, our trust may be reduced to a very simple confidence. Julian of Norwich describes how she turned to God in a period of confusion; Continue reading

Woo Hoo!

Photo 1031I just wanted to share my excitement with you! The 2 newest books in my Flourishing Faith series arrived at my door this week. Woo hoo! If you’re local and would like a copy, just email me (trujillokelli@yahoo.com). If you aren’t in the Indy metro area, you can find them on amazon or through my publisher via my web site, www.flourishing-faith.com. Thank you, readers, for your support!

When Christmas Hurts

Last year my friend, author Holley Gerth, stopped by this blog to share some thoughts about the spiritual discipline of celebration and what it means to celebrate even when life is difficult or painful. Advent & Christmas can be very painful times for those who are suffering, who are depressed, who’ve walked through tragedy. If that’s you — if you’re hurting while the rest of the world is celebrating — find encouragement in this interview with Holley as she shares a bit about her own approach toward holidays during difficult times.

[From December 2011]

YHolley-pic-NEW-2ou may have heard of Holley Gerth — she’s got a hugely popular blog called “Heart to Heart with Holley.” She’s the author of Rain on Me, God’s Heart for You, and You’re Already Amazing. She’s also created thousands of greeting cards and gifts for DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark and is the cofounder of their web site for women, (in)courage. Holley shares her heart and home with Mark and a crazy dog.

I’m sure you’ll be encouraged and inspired by her honest words.  Keep reading . . . 

Holley, tell my readers about yourself!

I love chocolate, coffee, my husband, and Jesus (not in that order). I’m not a morning person—I once put chocolate on the alarm clock to bribe myself to get up. I ate it and went back to bed. Yes, ma’am. But I married an early bird so I’m learning to change my ways. I’m named after my Grandpa Hollie. He and my Grandma had a  Christian bookstore so I grew up dreaming of being a writer. Being able to share God’s heart with women through words is my passion and I feel so grateful to be able to do so every day. It’s the next best thing to having coffee with all of my readers—which I would do if I could!

This month we’re looking at the twin spiritual disciplines of worship and celebration. In a very basic sense, I define them as praising and thanking God for who he is (worship); and praising and thanking God for what he does (celebration). Why do you think these disciplines are important?

Our church service last night was actually about worship and how it transforms us. The pastor talked about how closely the word “worship” is related to “service” in Greek and Hebrew.Over time I’ve come to see worship not as what we do at church but as a lifestyle of serving Jesus. To me, worship means bowing our hearts to God and saying, “I’m your servant. Use me as little or as much as you want.” That’s actually the prayer I say each morning as I get ready to write. I’ve also started writing what I’m thankful for in a journal each day. I use an unlined journal and draw all kinds of crazy pictures and things. But it works for me.

I recently read that our brains have a natural “negativity bias.” In other words, we tend to focus on and remember what’s negative better. That is a gift from God to help us survive (for example, focusing more on the bear charging out of the woods than the lovely flower behind it). But on a day-to-day basis, it means that we have to be intentional about refocusing our hearts and attention. We don’t need to feel guilty about our tendency to be negative but we do need to recognize it and change it through worship and gratitude. What’s amazing is that our brains literally rewire themselves as we think new thoughts. We actually create new neural pathways and are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Wow — Yes! Celebration can take many forms — gratitude, joy, prayer, praise, feasting, and more. When has celebration made a difference in your life?

I feel like this has been a year of learning to embrace joy in my life. Continue reading