How to Survive Depression as a Christian

I’ve probably read about 30 articles on depression and suicide since Monday night. From the well-known writers and publications to the amateur bloggers, it seems every writer has an opinion on the subject, and most are saying the same thing: depression and suicide are complicated, and those who aren’t familiar with them need to learn a thing or two… quick.

I’ve never cared to be a social commentator – at least not on the internet, because, let’s face it, a medium devoid of facial expressions and inflections can turn good intentions into culture wars (and do so, more often than not) at the speed of Wi-Fi. No, thank you.

No, my shtick is to speak from my personal experience in the hopes that you will see yourself somewhere in my story and be motivated to step a smidge closer to Jesus Christ as a result. So I’ll stick with that purpose.

Now that my preface is out of the way, on to the point of this article: how to survive depression as a Christian.

Hello. My name is Kelly, and since I was 12 years old (which was 19 years ago, if you must know), I’ve shared my head space with an unwanted “house” guest: depression (dysthymia and double depression, to be exact).

It took me 7 years and a few good friends to agree to talk to a counselor about it and to go see a doctor that could prescribe medication.

Since I was 19 years old, I’ve taken most of the antidepressants you’ve heard of as well as those you haven’t. I’ve seen a multitude of counselors and physicians and a psychiatrist. My house guest has come and gone with no rhyme or reason, but he never goes far… at most, he steps out on the porch of my mind for a cigarette break, and then he’s right back at it again, disheveling the rooms of my brain.

I became a Christian when I was 16, which may seem like a misplaced detail at this juncture of my story, but, I assure you, it’s not.

I was depressed before I became a Christian; I was depressed after I became a Christian. And no amount of spiritual maturing on my part changes the fact that I continue to wrestle depression for control of my “home”.

So what do I do about it?

As a Christian who has depression and is still alive, I suppose I’ve learned a few things about how to survive this illness. The things I’m going to suggest work for me, and by “work” I do NOT mean they pull me out of my depression. There are no silver bullets for chronic depression. I simply mean these tactics help me endure the dark hours and days and weeks until the light chooses to dawn again.

  • Go to a Christian psychologist or counselor. I know, going to a “shrink” makes you feel like you’re only validating that you are crazy. You aren’t crazy; you’re depressed. And talking to someone actually takes more strength and humility (both good Christian virtues) than staying home all day in your pajamas, sullenly wishing Taco Bell delivered. (Not that I’ve done that… today…) Not only will talking to someone with some training help you feel understood and less alone, working with a professional who understands the truth about our souls as well as our brains gives you an essential added dynamic to unraveling and surviving depression as a Christian. Non-Christians don’t correctly understand God, and we are made in God’s image, so it follows non-Christians cannot correctly (and/or fully) understand human nature. It’s true, Christian therapists are limited, too (they are finite and fallible, after all), but they are much more likely to understand more accurately a larger portion of the puzzle that is the human mind/spirit combination than non-Christian therapists, in my opinion.
  • If your type of depression warrants it, take medication. Hear me, Christian. You are not a second class person nor a second class believer if you happen to need an antidepressant to help your brain function correctly! I spent 7 years in misery because I was too embarrassed to admit I might need medication. A loving friend finally convinced me to see a medical doctor by explaining chemical depression is no different than diabetes – they both require synthetic medicine, and neither need is shameful. Your counselor can tell you if she thinks you may need medication. If there is any reason to believe you might benefit from an antidepressant, go see a psychiatrist. I cannot emphasize this point enough. I wasted too many years (10!) relying on my general practitioner and OBGYN for my meds. They know a lot about…other things…but brain chemistry is not their specialty. I know, the side effects are annoying. I know, you’ve tried a lot of medications, and none seem to work. I know, some can be expensive. Take them anyway. My counselor told me it can take 6 months to a year, on average, to find the best medication at the best dosage IF you’re willing to work faithfully with a psychiatrist. Invest that time and money. Honestly, life isn’t going to feel worth living if you don’t, but it might if you do.
  • Get a little help from your friends. I know, relationships are difficult and exhausting when you’re depressed. I know, you don’t feel like you have any friends. I know, you’re scared to show your frailty to anyone. But you must – not to everyone, just 2 or 3 folks that are safe to be transparent with. Surround yourself with a handful of people that are willing and able to remind you they love you just as much (if not more) when you are at your lowest as they do when you are at your best – people who will simply be with you physically and/or emotionally when you need to feel less alone. Pick people you know will pray for you, not just people who will say they will but don’t. Pick people who speak God’s grace to you when you speak self-condemning thoughts to them. Pick people who acknowledge you feel like there is no hope and there will be no end to the darkness while they simultaneously remind you, ever so gently, that light will come again. Pick people you know you can text or call any time and they will inevitably respond with a listening ear and an empathetic spirit. Pick people who don’t succumb to the societal pressure that makes them feel like they need to “fix” you but instead focus on the task of making you feel loved.
  • Keep communication open with God. I know, you don’t feel like He hears you. I know, you’re angry with Him at times. I know, the scriptures aren’t comforting when you read them. I know, the commands to “be joyful always” only serve as catalysts to heap condemnation on yourself. Tell Him all of this. Whatever you’re feeling about Him, about the words you’re reading from the Bible, be straight up with God. He is listening, even though we may not sense Him responding (Psalm 34:15). If you don’t know what to read, go to the Psalms. And not the happy Psalms, but the depressing Psalms (ex. 42, 43, 55). It’s yet another way to feel less alone when you read people in the Bible felt depressed, too, and most of the depressing Psalms end with the depressed person praising God, an example we could learn from. And don’t let Satan grow those feelings of condemnation in your mind! Jesus understands how depression limits our ability to be joyful always. Frankly, even optimists with perfect brain chemistry can’t uphold the commands to rejoice all the time. We’re all on an even playing field with this one: try, and let Jesus’ grace cover the shortfall.
  • Rest. Depression is tough. It sucks the energy right out of you. So say no to all the good church (and life) activities that others want you to do. I know, they need someone to work in the nursery. I know, they need someone to pass out the fliers. I know, they need someone to greet at the door. Save the limited energy you have for one or two church things that really contribute to your mental health instead of detract from it (might I suggest attending a Bible study?). Hear me, though. I am NOT saying retreat. If you drop out of everything at church and hole up in your house, you’re not “resting”, you’re “retreating”, and you’re going to sink deeper into depression than you ever have before because that’s what happens when you’re alone all the time. You don’t have to go be Mr. or Ms. Socialite, but force yourself to attend something once a week and to speak to at least one person beyond, “Good morning.” Then go home and take a nap. Even if it’s only 11 AM. You’ve done well.

And that’s about it. These are the things I do as a Christian both to keep depression at bay as well as to endure depression when it descends upon me. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. There are no silver bullets.

My psychiatrist would tell me I also need to add eating better and exercising 30 minutes 5 times per week to my list, both of which would be Christianly ways to survive depression on account of the whole we ought to take good care of our bodies thing (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But those are really hard things to do when you’re depressed. So I’m still eating Taco Bell on my couch on a regular basis.

My pastor suggested he anoint me with oil and pray for healing per the directive in James 5:14. I haven’t done it yet, but I plan to, and I invite you to try it, too, even if you’re uncomfortable with it. He’s done this for me twice in the past in regards to different health issues, and both issues resolved, albeit several months after the fact. I don’t know that the anointing and prayer had anything to do with it, but I don’t know that they didn’t either. So it’s worth a shot, in my book.

If you’ve read this far, it’s likely you’re either a depressed Christian yourself or you are close to someone who is. Drop me a line in the contact box below, and I will pray for you. I will stop everything and pray for you. Also, if you’ve discovered anything else that helps you survive depression, share it in the comments section to help others.

 

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What to do if You’re Unhappy at Your Church

The fact is there are lots of awesome church people out there that have decided it’s not okay for them to leave their churches because they don’t really have biblical reasons to do so.

So they are staying. Right where they are. And, truth be told, they are miserable. They find it difficult to be at their churches. They aren’t happy, and unhappy people have difficulty connecting with others and with God.

What then?

Are they obligated to stay at their churches and be miserable?

No.

God doesn’t want you  miserable at your church. Barring any unbiblical things going on, God wants you happy at your church. 

Read that again.

God wants you happy at your church, not at a new church. 

How do I know that?

a) God loves us and wants us to be happy (Psalm 68:3). God is a compassionate God who weeps with us and rejoices with us and is able to relate to every emotion we have (Matthew 14:14, John 11:35, Hebrews 4:15). He desires for us to feel happy, but that is not the end all be all of our existence, and if our happiness and our growth in Christ are at odds with one another, God will choose to attempt to grow us every time (2 Corinthians 3:18).

b) If there is one thing the New Testament stresses to the church, it’s unity (2 Corinthians 13:11). When people leave their church bodies in search of personal happiness in a new church body, whether they intend to or not, they effectively stress fracture their former body. Whether they leave quietly or recruit loudly as they go, they weaken other believers in that body by taking away their services (assuming they were serving in the first place) and by causing other believers to wonder if they should leave too.

When the body gets multiple stress fractures from multiple people leaving, it becomes so weak it breaks. And when the body breaks in multiple places, it hurts. A lot. For a long time. Ministry is crippled, to some degree, among the remaining church members as they are left to try to salvage the body. Energy and resources have to be focused on healing the body rather than on what the church should be focusing on: spreading the Gospel and discipling believers.

c) Every time we feel like our happiness is at odds with an opportunity for us to grow, we aren’t viewing the situation how we should (James 1:2-3). We need a heart change quick. We should value above all else our conformation to the image of Christ. That should be our chief source of happiness, and being miserable at your church affords you the perfect opportunity to grow. Rejoice.

So, if you’re unhappy at your church, can I gently challenge you to stop waiting for the things around you to change to suit your preferences and to start changing yourself?

If you want to feel happy about going to your church, stop the self-focus – “What am I not getting?” – and train your mind to focus on others (Philippians 2:3-4) – “How can I serve others here today?” If you’re not serving, start (1 Peter 4:10).

Now, the tricky part is we can serve until we’re blue in the face and still feel unhappy about our churches because our hearts are still focusing on ourselves while we go through the motions of serving others. Psalms says God doesn’t value that kind of external sacrifice, he wants our hearts (Psalm 51:16-17). When we serve with the motivation to honor the Lord, others will experience the love and truth of Jesus, and we will gain joy knowing the Lord is happy with us (Ephesians 6:7). 

If you are among the minority of church members who do serve and are others focused, but you still feel unhappy with your church, there is one other area that needs to change.
Consider that everything your church does is not for your benefit. If you’re a seasoned believer, the outreach arm of your church is not trying to make you happy, it is trying to reach unbelievers and new believers and welcome them into the church so they can come to know Christ. What’s more important than that? (Matthew 28:18-19)
Knowing this, seasoned believers should approach outreach times not with an “I’m not getting anything out of this” attitude but with a rejoicing heart that the Gospel is being preached and non and young believers are getting exactly what they need – small doses of scripture and basic truths (1 Corinthians 3:2). Your jobs during outreach, seasoned believers, is to bring non and new believers so they can grow and to pray for the Spirit to move. Rejoice that seekers are being introduced to Christ at your church!
Likewise, if you’re a young believer, the intensive Bible studies that are way over your head are not trying to make you happy, they are trying to help seasoned believers go deeper in their relationships with the Lord (Hebrews 5:14). If you’re in one of these classes, and your eyes are glazing over because you don’t care about the original Greek, your job is to pray that the Spirit would move and grow these other members in their walks with Him. Rejoice that seasoned believers can grow at your church!
This is the kind of perspective change – to value others more than ourselves – that is called maturing in Christ. If you church-hop in this moment, you lose. You lose the opportunity to mature in your faith (Ephesians 4:15). You lose the opportunity to be apart of others coming to know the Lord.
If none of this is helpful, you need to call your pastor, schedule a meeting, and have an open, honest discussion with him about how you’re feeling. Tell him that you are unhappy and that you don’t want to leave, but you don’t know how to get happy, and allow him to speak to the sources of your unhappiness. Some of the very things that cause you the most trouble could be simple misunderstandings. Or they could be legitimate problems that your pastor needs to be aware of so he can redirect the church.

Developing Self-Discipline One Frame at a Time

On the heels of my last post, there are some things I feel like I can’t choose to do. I just can’t seem to will myself, to discipline myself, to do and/or not do various things.

And all you optimists are saying, “Well, that’s obviously a lie. We are in total control of our own choices.”

And you’re mostly right, but we realists don’t feel like you’re right, so it doesn’t matter.

The only time the statement, “I can’t make myself _____,” is true is when the statement is actually, “I can’t make myself feel ______.”

I can’t make myself feel like cooking.

I can’t make myself feel excited about cleaning.

I can’t make myself feel like not sinning in my favorite way.

And you know what I’m learning? That’s okay.

It’s okay to have the feelings we have. It’s okay to feel what we feel, and we can’t change our feelings.

Where the lie creeps in, though, is when we start to believe we must act a certain way in relation to our feelings. If I feel _____, I must do _____. If I don’t feel ____, I can’t do _____. As if we are powerless over our emotions and hopelessly enslaved to them.

Lies.

Lazy lies.

For years my out has been, if I do something I don’t feel like doing, I’ll be a fake. And, honestly, I don’t have the emotional energy to pretend like I enjoy something when I don’t. Nor do I respect people who are phony.

So I took those thoughts and came to two false conclusions: if I can’t get excited about something, I shouldn’t do it, and, if I am excited about something, I have a right to do it. 

Turns out that’s quite a problematic approach to “being an adult”.

But there is a solution for those of us that operate this way. And it’s not what you think.

The answer is not to learn to get more excited about things we dislike. Hell can freeze over, thaw, and refreeze again, and I will never get excited about cleaning my house. Or eating quinoa. Or not eating pizza daily. Or resisting the pull of my favorite sins.

The answer is not to develop an affection for things we just don’t have an affection for or to somehow rid ourselves of the affections we have for things that are bad for us. The answer has nothing to do with how we feel or don’t feel about the areas in which we lack self-discipline.

The answer lies in re-framing our situations.

Developing Self-Discipline One Frame at a Time
image via foto76/freedigitalphotos.net

For example, I can’t wait until I feel like exercising to exercise. That day will never come. But I also can’t force myself to exercise while cursing the whole time and expect myself to develop a lifelong routine of exercising. When I don’t exercise, I hate exercise. When I force myself to exercise, I hate exercise. And thinking about how much I hate exercise all the time isn’t productive.

But you know what I do like? Playing soccer. Well, that’s not true. I like playing soccer when I’m fit. If I’m not fit, I can’t physically do what I know I would be capable of if I were in shape, and then I hate playing soccer.

So I can take this idea that I want to be fit so I can enjoy playing soccer again, and I can attach it to exercise, which I still hate, mind you. And I can tell myself, it’s okay to hate exercise. But I’m going to exercise anyway so I will be in shape (and, therefore, enjoy) playing ball next month.

See what I did there? I re-framed exercise. It’s still an annoying piece of my daily routine I feel negative about, but I choose to do it anyway because it’s a necessary means to an end I do get really excited about. I’m not getting tripped up in my feelings anymore. I’m choosing to act independently of my feelings.

And we can do that – you and I, resident pessimists – we can learn to re-frame any number of situations in order to develop some much needed self-discipline. 

Ann Voskamp says, “You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see,” (The Greatest Gift).

It’s true.

What situation do you need to re-frame today? Ask Him to help you. And shoot me an email if you want to talk about it. Unless it’s about cooking. Then I can’t help you.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

Does God Ever Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

SufferingI shared an article on my Facebook wall the other day in which a pastor makes the case that God does give us more than we can handle. I happened to agree with this suffering Christian. However, a friend of mine who loves Jesus and the Catholic Church and knows Scripture took issue with the article.

(Note: you need to have Christians – and by that I mean Jesus-following and Bible-loving folks – who don’t think like you in your life. I joked with my friend, “As iron sharpens iron, so a devout Catholic sharpens an evangelical Protestant.” It’s a joke, but it’s also true.)

The dialogue with my friend helped me get to the bottom of why I agreed with the pastor’s sentiment and what he could have done to be more clear about his statement that God gives us more than we can handle (assuming his intent was to be biblical).

Go read the article for some background if you want. I’ll wait.

While my Catholic friend brought numerous disagreements to the table, his main beef was that, through Christ, we can handle anything (Philippians 4:13), and, if we believe in God’s sovereignty, we are to believe that whatever is happening to us is God’s will (Ephesians 1:11). That fact alone should give us reason to rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and embrace the burden (James 1:2), motivating us to stand up and endure. Not to mention, my friend pointed out, that God loves His people and would not “burden us past our capability”.

(I told you this guy is sharp.)

Clearly, I couldn’t refute my friends thoughts. I agree with his Bible-supported statements, although I could take issue with his assumption about how a loving God would and wouldn’t act, per his last thought. On the whole, my friend’s arguments are right.

And, yet, I still agreed with the bulk of the article stating the (seemingly) exact opposite: God does give us more than we can handle at times.

After some thinking, I realized the discord between my friend’s correct assertions and the author’s correct assertions was due to a lack of clarity on the author’s part.

The author wrote with an unspoken presupposition in mind that made a subtle appearance toward the end of the article but should have been more prominent. Because it wasn’t, my friend jumped on the lack of clarity and assumed the author to be off his biblical rocker.

The major distinction that wasn’t made clear is this: when we operate out of our own strength, what God gives us is often more than we can handle. But when we operate in total dependence on Christ, He will supernaturally enable us to handle anything. 

So, you see, both my friend and the author are right.

We have to get to the end of ourselves – we have to be broken, unable to bear anymore in our own strength – before we learn what it is to fully rely on Christ. God knows this, which is why, I believe, He does allow us to experience more than we can bear IN OUR OWN STRENGTH. We won’t turn to Him if we can bear it all alone.

Because He loves us and out of His desire for us to be drawn into closer, more dependent, and, simultaneously, more powerful relationship with Him, He allows/causes our burdens to accumulate when we aren’t depending on Him enough so we will depend on Him enough. He lets situations become too much so we realize how much He is – enough.

So, per the article’s point, don’t tell someone who is suffering that God won’t give them more than they can bear. Instead, tell them God gives us more than we can bear so we learn how to bear all with Him, and encourage them to use their suffering to, “Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually,” (Psalm 105:4).

What’s Oil Got to Do with It?

Truth be told, I’m not comfortable with the whole idea of anointing people with oil. It’s a mysterious, wacky religious right practice that I just don’t understand.

It’s not a practice I’m very familiar with, having grown up with no religious upbringing in suburban America. And, frankly, my intellectual pride screams at the top if its lungs how ridiculous the person is who believes a dab of household oil can bless or heal someone.

Still, I’ve had a handful of experiences with anointing in my short Christian life. My children were both dabbed as babies when we dedicated them to the Lord. But I’m not sure why. I think it is a symbol of bestowing blessing on the child, but I’m not certain.

I’ve been anointed myself by a pastor when asking for healing of stubborn headaches.

To be sure, this practice is odd in our culture. And I’m not sure I’ll ever be entirely comfortable with it. But those to whom the Bible was initially written were completely comfortable with the concept.

The first mention of anointing with oil was when Aaron and his sons were installed as the first priests of Israel. Exodus 28:41 says, “…anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.”

To consecrate was to make holy – to set apart for the Lord.

I suppose that’s what we were doing with our girls on their dedication days.

Throughout the Old Testament, priests, altars, the tabernacle, and leaders were anointed in this fashion, as a symbol of their desire to purely serve the Lord.

The New Testament seems to use anointing in a different manner.

In Mark 6, the twelve disciples are sent out to do the same kinds of things they’ve seen Jesus do. “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them,” (Mark 6:13).

James also uses this concept of anointing in relation to health. He says, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well,” (James 5:14-15).

I don’t know why oil is a big deal to God. I don’t know why He tells us to use oil to show holy intent or to invite divine healing. But He does. There are a lot of things about God I don’t get.

But that doesn’t excuse me from obeying Him.

Awhile back I told you about my daughter, Allie, and her on-going mystery back pain. Since then, she has met with a pediatric orthopedist who was perplexed and ordered an MRI. I was told after the fact that all the doctors were really worried, suspecting the worst.

But, praise God, the MRI was negative. We examined more urine samples and tested her blood for at least 10 different things. All is normal. She was sent to a pediatric rheumatologist in September who diagnosed her with discitis – a super rare inflammation of a disc between her vertebrae. She prescribed anti-inflammatories to alleviate discomfort. It didn’t help, so she prescribed a different one. It didn’t help either.

The prognosis is Allie will just have to grow out of the condition, which could take weeks or months. She’s been in pain for 6+ months. As she sobbed in my arms for over an hour on Wednesday, James 5 came to mind. It was time to give this wacky religious right practice of anointing a shot.

I took Allie to my favorite pastor’s house, a house she has spent much time at playing with his grand children, and, unbeknownst to Allie, we prayed over her. The pastor snuck a dab of oil on her head, and she smiled ear to ear. Then four of us prayed for healing and wisdom while Allie meandered around the house, playing and swindling a friend out of her fruit snacks with her sweet smile.

Allie was ok the rest of the day. This morning she cried a few minutes in pain. It remains to be seen if/how/when healing will come.

But obedience to the scriptures happened yesterday. And I know that pleases God’s heart.

 

The Secret to Persevering

Persevere with joy…

Crazy James talks about this. He says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance,” (James 1:2-3).

I guess “mature Christians” are able to do this… I, however, am not. I have not one ounce of energy with which to “choose joy”, as they say. When I am in the midst of a trial, I feel heavy-hearted and sick inside most of the time. Unhappy, unjoyful, yet still very much a sojourner in pursuit of Christ.

How can this be? What does this mean?

What is lacking? Where is the disconnect?

I love Jesus. And I’m thankful for His walking through the valleys with me. But joy? No, there is no joy in my soul.

Call me a cynic, but I don’t think I have the ability to choose joy. Through much training and self-discipline, I may be able to change my natural bent toward pessimism 1% in the opposite direction… but, on the whole, joy is not natural. Not for me, resident pessimist; not for anyone.

It’s my perception that our sinful natures quite literally can’t choose joy. At least not for very long or with much consistency. Similarly, we can’t persevere through trials. At least not for very long or with much consistency. So, logically, it follows we most certainly cannot choose to persevere in joy. At least not for very long, etc.

We can hang on for dear life through trials… we can kick and scream as life drags us through trials… we can find all sorts of unhealthy ways to pass the time while trials happen to us…

But, in and of ourselves, we can’t persevere. We can’t proactively and righteously conquer a trial.

Can’t be done.

Can’t be done without supernatural intervention.

Can’t be done without Jesus.

I cannot persevere in joy and righteousness. I don’t believe in myself. Not because I have miserably low self-esteem, but because I know all too well the depths of my depravity. I know what I’m capable of. And it’s the same ridiculousness you are capable of.

I cannot persevere in joy and righteousness alone. But I can pray that God will help me. That’s the best I can do. And maybe that’s all He’s asking me to do. Maybe the secret to persevering is admitting you can’t and relying on He who can.

 

A Tale of Two Desires

While studying James 4 the last two weeks, I noticed a verse that’d never sunk into my soul before. In my estimation, it is the most beautiful verse in all of James.

The chapter starts out with James addressing Jewish converts who are trying to navigate new territory as Christ-followers in a region that sees them as blasphemers. Most were low on money and tensions were high between them and the Jews with whom they shared land, history, and blood.

It’s not hard to believe that the pressure-cooker atmosphere outside of the small body of believers made things heat up within the body as well. Hence, James’ letter.

It seems there was quite a bit of fighting between believers. I think this because James says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” (James 4:1). Astute, no?

James is not looking for specific answers to specific disagreements. He is talking broadly about human nature. And, since you and I are human, his answer speaks to us too.

“Don’t [the fights and quarrels among you] come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight,” (James 4:1-2).

It begs the question, why can’t we have what we want? Especially in affluent, liberal America. If we want something, surely we can just go buy it or go experience it in the name of “it makes me happy”.

It’s interesting James says our desires are battling within us. This implies we have opposing desires… On the one hand, we love God and desire to do His will for us. We long to obey Him and please him. This desire is supernatural, given to us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

On the other hand, though, we are still humans. We retain our natural desires, which are entirely rooted in selfishness. We want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. We desire happiness and have the pride to believe we deserve it.

And, so, we see our two desires are at odds with one another. The first is focused on God; the latter is focused on self. Mutually exclusive.

We can’t feed both desires. And neither could James’ audience. They didn’t have what they wanted because they wanted it both ways. They wanted their selfish desires to be blessed by God.

A modern day example would be earnestly asking the Lord to bless your affair. Because it makes you happy. And your spouse would be crushed if they found out about it. “So, Lord, if You could just keep my secret from my spouse, that’d be best for everyone. We’d both be happy.”

Too extreme?

How about a different example… How about the pastor who loves the Lord with all His being, who feels called to lead a mega-church, who desires to be used of God to spread the Gospel for the Lord’s glory, who prays for blessings upon his church while he hopes God turns a blind eye to the pastor’s internet pornography habit he pursues in the privacy of his own home.

His desires battle within him… he is frustrated because God doesn’t bless. He quarrels with those around him because things aren’t going how he’d planned… but he doesn’t want to give up his “hobby”.

James addresses this man. He says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Strong language. But what does it mean?

“Friendship with the world” means subscribing to and participating in practices, ideas, and beliefs that go against God’s heart.  We commit spiritual adultery – we cheat on God – when we choose “worldly” things over biblical things.

Right about now you’re wondering where that beautiful verse is I was talking up at the beginning of this post. You feel convicted and sinful and could use a word of encouragement.

God knows. So He gives it.

James 4:6 reads, “But he (God) gives us more grace.”

BUT he gives us more grace.

But HE gives us more grace.

But he GIVES us more grace.

But he gives US more grace.

But he gives us MORE grace.

But he gives us more GRACE!

Praise the Lord Jesus Christ that He gives us more grace to WIN the battle that rages within each one of us. And when we lose on occasion, praise God He gives us more grace to go on by forgiving us when we humbly repent. And praise our Father that he gives us more grace – more blessings – than we deserve, in spite of our all too often choosing the world instead of Him.

Lord, may your grace enable us to win the battle today.