SUFFERING SEEN THROUGH THE LENS OF SCRIPTURE

Vaneetha Risner’s The Scars That Have Shaped Me   I am not defined by what people have done or said to me. I am defined by who I am in Christ. God uses all of our suffering for our joy and for his glory. God’s refusals are always his mercies. When my life spins out of control, I need to remember God’s absolute sovereignty. It comes down to trust. Will I trust my circumstances that constantly change, or God who is unchanging? God sees our lowest moments as our spiritual highs because that’s when he is doing the deepest work in us. The most precious answer God can give is to wait. It makes me cling to him rather than to an outcome. Anything that makes me dependent on God is a good thing, perhaps the best thing.   Pious Platitudes or Timeless Truths? Often, when I read remarks of that sort, they come across as glib spirituality, unrealistic bromides offered by someone who hasn’t been burned by the flames of real affliction. But when these statements spring from the mind and heart of Vaneetha Risner, that’s patently not the case. Those are just a few of the sentences that …

DEPRESSION STATISTICS AREN’T NUMBERS, THEY’RE PEOPLE

The Prevalence and Symptoms of Major Depression Usually sanguine, sixteen-year-old Chad started locking himself in his room more often, texting and calling his friends far less frequently, and attending fewer school and church social functions. He’s sleeping more, even napping during the day for the first time in years. His recent report card revealed at least a letter-grade drop in every subject but one. He’s prone to snap at his younger siblings, and vents hostility toward his parents that’s exaggerated for the occasion. Even one of Chad’s teachers told his mom, “He isn’t the same boy who started the year in my class. It’s as if he doesn’t care anymore.” If they could see inside him, they’d realize that not even Chad grasps what’s happening. He can’t point to a precipitating circumstance for the downward spiral in his mood. He can’t explain why he’s often sad, or why he wrote a poem about dying last week (which no one else has read). Depression Among Young People If 35-40 middle and high school kids attend your church, two or three probably identify with Chad’s depression, though not all depressed persons exhibit the same precise symptoms. Various studies show that anywhere from …

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What Does It Look Like in the Dark?

My first recollection of it occurred on the back porch steps of my rural home in North Carolina. Nine or ten years old, I slumped, cried aloud for what seemed like an hour, tears cascading down my cheeks onto the steps, obscuring my view of the sun setting behind a mountain. An overwhelming sadness, a deep-seated loneliness, enveloped me. At the time, I couldn’t put a label on my emotional state nor identify a reason for the hurt. *** Like any other hormone-crazed high school male, I wanted to date. Yet I never asked a girl out. Instead, I often cried myself to sleep, wishing I could be more “normal” and confident. Why bother to ask when I knew she’d reject me? The poor self-image, coupled with low grades that fell far short of my academic potential, instilled self-loathing and a daily barrage of accusatory self-talk. More than once, I balled my fists and whammed my head repeatedly until I couldn’t take the pain anymore. *** I stood with the rest of the congregation for a familiar hymn. Except mouthing the words took a herculean effort. My heart felt numb and parched. I felt out of place in the midst …