My friend Helen has written a lovely blog entry about a mutual friend of ours – someone you might not expect:
He’s a peculiar chap. He keeps his own company. He likes to hibernate. He likes to make others cry, ponder and contemplate the worst. He likes to distort reality for fun and he likes to take over people’s brains, then lives. He hates being shut out and he hates it when he isn’t invited to the party. So he muscles in, unwanted. He rears his ugly head when he’s least welcome and he sure knows how to put a damper on everything.
Meet my friend: Depression. We’ve been friends for 13 years now so it’s a pretty long-term thing. We’ve had our ups and downs like every friendship does. We’ve been close and we’ve been distant. We get on best when he leaves me alone. But now and again I am thankful for him.
Go read the rest on her blog.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)
In Bristol this weekend 12,000 runners took to the streets for the annual 10K race. I live near the Bristol Downs, where every day you can see casual joggers (headphones in; gentle pacing) and more serious runners (hi-vis Lycra; determined) out for their evening’s exercise. Occasionally I’ll join them, but without anything to train for I find it easy to give up early and head home.
The Christian life is often described as a race. Christians are like athletes, in a competition with rules (2 Tim 2:5). We’re to run to obtain a prize, running with purpose and discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). We’re to press on to the end, straining forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). We’re to persevere (Hebrews 12:1), or in the words common to many conversations I’ve had recently, we’re to keep going.
“Keep going.” A simple phrase, easy to say, but it often feels so difficult to do. For the Christian facing a difficult time—whether the stress of exams, overwhelming temptation or the black dog of depression—it can seem next to impossible. “Keep going? Exactly how do you expect me to do that?” We’re all too aware of our weakness and inability, and yet other Christians—the Bible even—seem to expect something that feels beyond us.
Often it can feel like no-one really understands how difficult things are. So we end up hiding away our feelings, saying “no one seems to believe me anyway”. At the other extreme we feel the need to prove that we’re struggling by self-destructing—turning to sin, self-harm, even suicide attempts to get people to “take this seriously”.
To the suffering, struggling Christian, the gentle encouragement to keep going can seem like the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We read verses like the one from Hebrews above, and angrily respond: “I can’t! Can’t you see I’m drowning here?”
When it feels like it’s impossible to keep going, what do we need to hear? Is God being unrealistic and pastorally insensitive when he calls us to “run with perseverance”?
The book of Hebrews actually gives us a perfect model of how to encourage the struggling. More than any other New Testament book, it calls Christians to keep going, to keep running the race, to keep fighting sin, to persevere to the end. But it does so by pointing them away from their own resources, and shows them the one who persevered through ultimate suffering, even to the point of death, and still kept going—the Lord Jesus Christ. The verse above finishes like this:
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
I can’t keep going. It’s beyond me. I’ll never make it. What can I do? Do I give up?
By no means. We’re to “fix our eyes on Jesus”; to “consider him”, the one who kept going to the bitter end—and pushed through to resurrection life. He has gone through suffering and death to the joy of heaven, and he does so as our pioneer, our forerunner. We look to him—and as we do, we find that, miraculously, he keeps us going. He’s run the race already, and ensures we’ll make it too.
Struggling, weary, doubting Christian: keep going! Not because you’re strong, but because his hold on you is sure. Not because you are worthy, but because he has promised.
Keep going. Not because you are able—but because he is.
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 23-24)
Have you realised that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you….
You must say to your soul: ‘Why are you cast down?’ – what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Put your hope in God’ – instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.’