Why Are You Cast Down, Oh My Soul?
There are seasons in everyone’s life where nothing seems to be going right, where nothing you do makes it better, and everything that is done feels wrong. I had felt this way deep down inside for a very long time…not knowing how to deal with it, or express it. I had never been a “feelings” guy…I was always the guy who would do anything short of shooting himself to keep from crying (I’ve even bitten my tongue so hard that I actually started bleeding). Some of this was how I was raised…to be a “man” about things and to not divulge weakness. Now this (believe it or not) is not my parents fault…they never told me to do this…they never told me it wasn’t ok to cry or to “suck it up buttercup,” (one of my personal favorites). No, it was in how they conducted themselves (mostly my father) in which I learned this. Now with him…it was a necessary skill in survival, he lived in a home growing up where emotions were used as ammunition to inflict wounds and so he had learned how to bottle things up and cope. To this day he is still this way (although since giving his life to Christ he is much more open about how he feels). But over the years of putting this into practice, I began to recognize that slowly…I was eroding away. My fears, depression, and inadequacies began to pile up and in the spring of 2013 things had come to a boiling point. I was fed up with work, fed up with God, and tired…tired. I felt as though I was in a constant battle with God over my calling; as if I had to fight Him in order to obey Him. Slowly over the years of being told by men that I trusted that I wasn’t good enough, or trained enough, or old enough to serve Christ well…I had begun to believe them (more on that at a later date).
This weight was one that I had carried for quite some time and it had been enough. I was fed up with God, my calling, and to be frank my life. This did not show itself in despair however…at least not at first. No at first, I was a typical man and became angry about everything. The saying is true…when a woman is sad, frustrated, or scared she generally shows these as they are (this is the general rule obviously). Men convey these emotions through the emotion of anger. If we are frustrated we’re mad…if we’re sad…we’re mad…if we’re scared…we’re mad, this is our default emotion. This is a reason that suicide is more prevalent with men than with women…men become angry at themselves and instead of inflicting damage upon others they decide to end their own lives’ that they deem to be a waste. This was where I was about to step, my pain was so deep…so seemingly hopeless that I was ready to end my own life. I had deemed myself worthless, irreprehensible, and to be honest…I felt abandoned by God. I felt as though he had dropped the ball…that he had begun a good work and was not intent on finishing it.
For me my calling to preach, teach and minister to God’s people and the lost was part of who I am. It is as impossible for me to not be a minister, preacher, and teacher and live as it was for me to cease breathing and live. All of my identity was tied up into this vocation. Luckily my wife is an intuitive person and knew that something was off in me. She started asking questions (what I call an inquisition in jest) trying to gauge what was going on with me. Eventually I told her, and she in turn told the doctor that I needed to be off work for two weeks for rest as I was not in a good state of mind. For two weeks then…I sat at home…and argued and fought with God…chastising him for putting this desire within me and then not nourishing it…not working in it and making me what others thought I needed to be in order to serve Him well. But as time went on…I began to recognize a fatal flaw within my thought process towards God. I came to recognize that in my journey I had deposed God and set His call on my life as god over my life. Slowly…the Holy Spirit began to show me that I had put my identity in my calling and not in the person of Jesus. In essence…I was not content in Christ…and because of this…and my adultery of idol worship I had been held back from significant ministry.
Through the two weeks God slowly began to restore me…and as I continued to press into Him and learned how to be content in Him and Him alone I began to feel my depression lift. Soon the words of those I trusted were removed from my burden and replaced with words of encouragement and love from those God has now placed in my life. I began preaching in the county jail and putting together a Sunday school class…and in time…God began to make use of me again (including starting this blog). Now…a year and half later I am amazed by what God has done in my life. I am still stuck in this crummy job (we’re still talking that one out) but I am no longer in personal crisis. I am no longer questioning the call that God has put onto my life and has been nothing but affirmed by men and women that I greatly admire, love, and respect (most of all, my wife). Since this event, I have graduated with my MA in Theological Studies, been accepted to that same school for an Ed.S. and eventual Ed.D. and became a nationally licensed and ordained chaplain. It is amazing to me that I have been gifted with the faith of a very large Christian college by being granted a graduate degree and then admission into a doctoral program, and that a ministry saw fit to affirm my call and commission me to perform the work of the ministry. Men and women have put themselves under my teaching (most of which are older that I am) and have come to trust me as they trust the pastors at our church (their grace afforded to me in Christ is humbling beyond words). I now have leaders in the church that believe in my call, who see what God is doing and are not just willing but wanting to be of assistance; Wes Morris of The Rock Church, Jim Kirkland of LifePoint Church to name two, to which I am eternally grateful for their trust and faith in what God is working in me. I also have friends deserving of thanks; our dear friends Joel and Brittany Duncan (these two have literally become a lifeline to my wife and I), Calvin Moore (a fellow worker of the Gospel and a true brother in Christ), David Sidebotham, Brenan Hudgens, and others I am sure I am missing. And lastly…to my wife… a woman who deserves far more credit than I do for the man that I have become today (well…behind Christ of course). She is a greater helpmate to me than she will ever recognize and for that I am thankful. Without her, my ministry would be a shadow of what God has allowed it to become today. I look forward to the day that God calls me to serving His people in a more permanent role (wherever that may be) but until then…I will serve God wherever he has me.
What is the point of this whole thing? Well there is two points…one of which is to share my story so that others can learn from my mistakes and two because no matter how hopeless things may seem…no matter how big the problem may be…it is necessary to understand (not believe but understand) this fact…God is bigger than my doubts and fears. And that specifically the champion of heaven has fought and won the war on our behalf. Let us never forget to whom we belong for in this fact we find limitless courage and encouragement. If you are struggling…know that God knows…and he understands. Read Psalm 42 and then after reflecting on it read 43. Notice the difference? It is fine for us to mourn…for us to lament…but know that God is faithful and if you are in 42…well than that means 43 isn’t far away. God bless and thank you for reading.
In Christ’s love,
Justin (aka The Nerdy Theologian)