An Open Letter to those Suffering with Depression

The female version of Reset (RHB) is just about to be published. It’s my wife’s first book and is called Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Overwhelming Demands (RHB). In it, Shona tells about her own battles with depression and anxiety and shares many of the lessons God has graciously taught her along the way. Here’s an open letter she wrote to those suffering with depression.

My dear friend,

I’m so sorry to hear that you are suffering with serious depression. Although you feel hopeless and helpless, I want to assure you right up front that there is hope and there is help. I’ve been there myself and I’ve felt the same despair and darkness that you feel. But God, in his great mercy, brought me out of it and I trust and pray he will also bring you into the light.

Recovery took longer than I expected or wanted and I was surprised at how many different components were involved in my healing. But have hope: if you are patient and use all the different means God has provided, you will most likely be among the 95% of people who do get better.

You’ve already taken the first and most important step: you’ve admitted you have a serious problem and you’ve begun to reach out for help. That’s huge. If you checked out the symptoms of depression on WebMD, you were no doubt helped to see how many of these symptoms you have and that you’ve already had some of them for a worryingly long time.

The next step is to share this with three people: a close family member (like your spouse, if you’re married), your pastor, and your doctor. You will need family support throughout, and the earlier you involve them the better, as they will have a lot to learn in the next few months. They may not understand initially, but encourage them to support you as you talk to your pastor and doctor.

Your pastor is key as he will help you to discern whether there are any spiritual causes behind your depression. Even if there isn’t a spiritual cause (and there often isn’t) there will be spiritual consequences and you will need your pastor’s prayers and guidance throughout. I’d caution you against announcing this as a prayer need in your church. Not everyone understands depression, and some people might say some cruel and hurtful things about you and even to you. It’s better just to share this with people you can be sure will sympathize with and pray for you.

When you visit the doctor, tell him everything—don’t hold back, don’t minimize, don’t play it down. Just explain exactly how you are feeling. You may get quite emotional opening up for the first time like this, but the doctor is very used to this and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

You can expect your doctor to help clarify whether you have the symptoms of depression. He should also be able to do some initial examination of possible physical causes. He may order some medical tests, and he may ask you about your family history and about your life over the past 6–18 months. He’s simply trying to figure what might be some of the contributing factors to this depression. He’s also working on possible cures which, depending on the seriousness of your condition, may include medication or some counseling.

If he does prescribe medication, be patient with it and give it a few weeks to really begin to work. Ask God to bless his provision of these medications, and that he would direct them to the right places in your body. Also, don’t think that all you need to do is pop a pill. I’ve never seen anyone cured by just taking meds. They can work very well, however, if taken as part of a holistic package of care.

Regarding counseling, your pastor should be able to give you basic advice and biblical counsel, but you may also wish to consider a Christian counselor, especially one who has some expertise in CBT (cognitive behavior therapy). That will help you to retrain your mind and thinking patterns for long-term recovery. But keep your pastor involved and informed throughout.

Read the rest of this post containing six pieces of practical advice at Crossway’s blog.

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The Courage to Be Ordinary: Help for Average Christian Leaders | Desiring God
“But in serving as a pastor and working with fellow pastors for many years, I’ve found two characteristics essential to do ministry in a way that depends on God: courage to be ordinary and comfort with obscurity.”

Sex Is a Big Deal
Although Hollywood and the media are beginning to admit that sex is perhaps maybe just a little bit more consequential than eating candy, Gene Veith argues:

“But sex is still a bigger deal than much of our contemporary culture is willing to admit.  How can sexual restraint–which is now recognized as necessary for social life and the well-being of women and men–be cultivated when sex is still seen as recreational, separated from procreation, and unmoored to marriage and family?  How can we expect men shaped by pornography to treat women? Bringing back sexual restraint requires rebuilding the infrastructure of sexual morality.”

What Research Says About Being Bored at Work
“We tend to view time spent alone as time wasted or as an indication of an antisocial or melancholy personality. Instead, we should see it as a sign of emotional maturity and healthy psychological development.”

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Special offer on Dennis Prutow’s book about preaching. Maybe a gift for your pastor during Pastor Appreciation Month?”

Selfies at Niagara
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Welcome Everyone, Affirm No One
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Kindle Books

If you scroll down the Lightkeepers page, you’ll find some $2.99 Kindle deals on children’s books.

Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation by Ed Stetzer $2.99.

One Race One Blood by Charles Ware and Ken Ham $2.99.

What the Church can Learn from Weinsteingate

It’s very tempting for Christians to take the moral high ground as the evils of Hollywood’s god, Harvey Weinstein, are brutally exposed and rightly denounced.

Even film-makers, actors, and actresses who have made millions of dollars portraying women as men’s sex-objects are now bravely lining up with the masses to denounce someone who…em, well…treated women as men’s sex-objects.

But before we charge up the hill to the high ground and start our moral lectures, perhaps we need to pause and learn some moral lessons ourselves. As church history makes clear, especially recent church history, many churches have their own Harvey Weinsteins (though not on the same scale, unless you include the Catholic church), and we haven’t covered ourselves in glory in dealing with them.

1. The most powerful Christian leaders need the most accountability. 

Unfortunately, the more powerful and successful a man becomes, usually the less accountable he becomes. He answers to no one but himself and those around him (e.g. elders, deacons, boards of directors) are often afraid to challenge him. As a result, behavior that we would not tolerate in our children is ignored, the man’s sense of impregnability increases, and he eventually views himself as untouchable.

2. A person’s gifts and usefulness should never be used to cover or balance out evil.

Just as, “But he makes great films,” and, “But he makes us lots of money,” were used for decades to excuse Weinstein’s abuse, so “But he preaches great sermons” and “But he brings in lots of people/money/publicity” can also excuse a Christian leader’s abuses. Great gifts and great success must never be used to justify inactivity in the face of great evil.

3. Evil leaders need enablers to succeed in their evil.

Everyone around Weinstein knew what was going on, and many of them, including female employees, not only turned a blind eye, but even facilitated his wickedness. It’s virtually impossible for a man to engage in multiple abuses without people around him allowing it and even enabling it. Those are are complicit in evil like this share the guilt and must share the consequences of the penalty too.  It’s not enough to say, “Well he’s gone, now let’s get the show on he road again.” No! Who else knew and did nothing? Who enabled him? Who defended him? Who attacked his accusers?

4. Multiple rumors must be investigated.

Leaders in any walk of life, including the church, are vulnerable to false accusations. That’s why the Apostle Paul said that accusations against an elder need two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19). However, when the number of witnesses begins to multiply beyond that, serious investigation must take place. As with Weinstein, too often people have heard multiple accusations and had their suspicions for years, but they never acted on them. They never followed up. They never investigated further. And the result was that multiple others needlessly suffered.

And remember, those who have the courage to come forward are usually the tip of an iceberg. From what I’ve seen, for every victim who comes out publicly, you can probably count a few more that will continue to suffer in secret, and another few more that he’s grooming for the future.

5. Victims must be cared for.

When a high profile figure falls, you’ll often get people who can only feel sorry for the fallen man. Expensive schemes are put in place for his “treatment,” his counseling, and his rehab. Prayers are offered for him, sermons about forgiveness,  grace, and not judging are preached. Perhaps financial settlements are reached to ease his family through loss of income and so on. But hardly a thought or a cent is sent the victims’ ways. This is completely upside-down, inside-out, and back-to-front. They are the victims and he is the victimizer. They are the church’s priority, not him.

6. Men need women to understand sexual assault.

Men often find it difficult to understand the deep and long damage done to victims of sexual assault. What to a man seems minor and insignificant can be huge to a woman. Already I’ve seen some opinionators downplaying some of the Weinstein assaults: “He just kissed her or hugged her…He just exposed himself…he just asked for a massage…he didn’t rape her…” and so on. I’ve heard even Christian men saying things like that concerning other cases.

In these kinds of situations, male leaders in the church need the help of women if they are to begin to understand how even the slightest sexual advance without consent can cause such deep and long pains. Surely we can devise ways of retaining the biblical mandate for male officebearers while incorporating female wisdom in such critical areas?

7. One strike and you’re out.

The ink was barely dry on the first Weinsteingate headline when the fallen man was telling the cameras, “I’m going to rehab…I’m asking for a second chance.” He’s hardly hit the ground and he’s already thinking about how to make a comeback! That might make for a good story in Hollywood but it must never happen in the church. Go flip burgers, anything, but don’t even think about shepherding God’s lambs again. Yes, there can be personal forgiveness, but if you lay a finger on a woman who is not your wife, there is no way back into church leadership. If more Christian leaders knew on this front that it’s one strike and you’re out, there would be far fewer walking to the plate.

Saint Harvey

Here’s where the church must really differ from Hollywood, and that’s in the Gospel grace we still offer to monsters like Weinstein. Yes, even Harvey, if he repents of his sin and puts his faith in Christ alone for salvation, can go to heaven and live forever as a saint of God. Does that offend you? Then the Gospel offends you. Our reaction to such a possibility is an accurate gauge of how much we really understand the Gospel, and especially our own need of it.

TED Talk Exegesis

Great explanation builds an idea in someone’s head by starting where our hearers are, igniting curiosity, building slowly, and by using metaphors and examples.

TED Head Chris Anderson says that “if the goal of a great talk is to build an idea inside someone’s mind, then explanation is the essential tool for achieving that goal.” The TED Talks that have gone viral have all been masterful explanations that produce new understanding. Or as Anderson puts it, “the upgrading of a worldview to better reflect reality.”

That’s partly what preaching is about too, isn’t it? It’s about building an idea, a divine idea, inside someone’s head, explaining the biblical text in such a way that it upgrades our hearers’ worldview to better reflect reality. Preaching is more than that; but it’s at least that.

Having analyzed innumerable TED talks, Anderson has isolated five key components of great explanation:

1. Start where your hearers are. Begin with the here and now, with your hearers’ world, time, concerns, and needs.

2. Ignite curiosity. “Curiosity is what makes people ask why? and how? It’s the feeling that something doesn’t quite make sense. That there’s a knowledge gap that has to be closed.”

3. Bring in concepts one by one. Make sure you have fully explained the earlier steps of your case or else the latter parts will come crashing down and destroy everything.

4. Use metaphors. “For an explanation to be satisfying it has to take puzzling facts and build a connection from them to someone’s existing mental model of the world. Metaphors and analogies are the key tools needed to do this. They help shape the explanation until finally it snaps into place with a satisfying aha!”

5. Use examples. Little stories help lock the explanation into place.

The end result of this kind of explanation will be a richer, deeper, truer mental world. And if it’s preaching, it should also produce the same in our spiritual world.

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson.

Great explanation builds an idea in someone’s head by starting where our hearers are, igniting curiosity, building slowly, and by using metaphors and examples.

More articles in the Preaching Lessons from TED Talks series.

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Why the Department of Justice’s Religious Liberty Guidance Matters

“We are encouraged by the legal clarity provided through these 20 principles on religious liberty covering issues of great importance to millions of Americans. This legal memo reminds all federal agencies that people of faith do not have to leave their deeply held beliefs at the door when entering their job or public marketplace. This guidance also further enhances our churches’ legal standing if they are treated differently than other organizations by city ordinances when seeking building space and other government services.”

How to Resolve Most Relational Conflict
“Pride is the enemy inside us that speaks to us like a friend. Its counsel sounds so much like self-protection, preservation, and promotion that we’re often blinded to the fact that it’s destroying us and others. It rises in great indignation as a prosecuting attorney when others’ pride damages us, but it minimizes, qualifies, excuses, rationalizes, and blame-shifts our behavior when we damage others. We can be easily deceived into believing that our pride wants to save us, when really, it’s our internal Judas betraying us with a kiss.”

Ten Brief Lessons on the Ten Commandments
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“If you really want to learn Greek, you’ll need a long-term strategy, practical methods, and the stamina to stick it out. If you’ve developed bad study habits, they’re going to be magnified as you set out to learn Greek. So let’s create some good habits and address bad ones along the way. Here are some of the things all Greek students should know:”

Blood on the Table
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Kindle Books

Honest Evangelism: How to talk about Jesus even when it’s tough by Rico Tice $2.99.

The Printer and the Preacher: Ben Franklin, George Whitefield, and the Surprising Friendship that Invented America $0.99.


My Wife is Not a “Ball and Chain”
Tim Challies has lost the ability to type and therefore has resorted to a video version of his blog. In his first one, he calls men to think well and speak well of their wives.

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‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia
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Eric Schmidt: Good Sleep Enhances Your Ability to Do Almost Everything
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Episode 5.5: A Punishing Providence
This podcast explores the most pastorally helpful section in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Eight VCs Explain How (And Why) They Assess Founders’ Emotional Intelligence
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How Singleness Prepared Me for Barrenness
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Lessons from Pastoring 30 Years in Zambia
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Helping Churches to Better Handle Cases of Abuse
I highly recommend this to all pastors and elders for study and discussion.

Plants & Pillars
New website for Free Reformed Youth.

Kindle Books

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller $1.99.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle $1.99.

New Book

In this video, Bill Vandoodewaard, author of a new commentary on 1 & 2 Peter (buy at Heritage Books) answers the question: “What are some of the things you learned in writing a commentary on 1 & 2 Peter?”