Relapse • Devotion #5: Apathy

Growing up in my house there were a number of words added to the curse word list we were not allowed to say. We were not allowed to say “shut up,” “fart,” or things which may be on the edge of inappropriate but most of my friends growing up would not have considered that bad. I remember getting made fun of for it a lot, but there was always one word I was never allowed to say that would not lead to teasing, but would instead just lead to confusion. Growing up I was banned from saying the word “whatever.” To my mom, saying “whatever” communicated you did not care and to her, that was never okay. If I answered with whatever, be it to “what do you want for dinner” or to an apology, it was never okay for me to communicate that I did not care. To not care meant indifference and apathy, and my mom wanted me to understand that we as a family were not going to be indifferent to anything. My mom always warned me about the dangers of not caring and becoming “lukewarm.” 

Constantly I am reminded about God’s rebuke to the church of Laodicea. We see what He says in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

I am sure of one thing, the last thing I want is to be spit out of the mouth of God. Yet I know, for my wife and I, apathy, specifically in me, has been one of the single leading causes for strife between us. I may not say the word “whatever” but my actions can just as easily communicate that is how I feel. Be it Bible reading as a family, to doing the dishes, apathy can really drive a wedge between the members of your family. The trouble is diagnosing apathy, because of it being an action that is done and seen by others, it is much easier to mask and excuse. We tell ourselves, “I just had a hard day of work, I will hear about my spouse’s day tomorrow” or “My kids have wiped me out, and honestly I would love to just eat in front of the TV rather than pray together and talk over a meal.” Apathy can easily creep its way in and then become the norm.

We have to fight our apathy, seeking to be fervent followers of Christ. Romans 12:11 has always shifted me into gear when apathy begins to creep into my life, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

We are called to be a fervent people. That means being fervent for our families, fervent in serving God, fervent in loving those around us, and fervent for our relationship with the Lord. When we let apathy creep in it is only a matter of time until something breaks in our lives. However, when we make ourselves care, and push through even when it is difficult, we combat that apathy. 

Relapse •Devotion #4: Addiction and Abuse

I think it’s safe to say that we all have a scar of some sort that marks a time in our lives with a story to tell. It is also probably safe to say that if we have had one from childhood, we may have gotten it while doing something that we should not have been doing. Maybe you have a scar from a tragic experience and are thankful to be here to share its story. Maybe you have a scar that is not visible in the flesh but lies deep within your emotions. Relationships can leave scars, the ones that are difficult to talk about because of the pain that they still carry, often from some type of abuse. For those of us who have suffered from the unseen scars know that they tend to resurface when we least expect it. They tell their story through anxiety, fear, insecurity, and even depression. Every believer has a story to share, a “testimony” of where you were without Christ, and who you are now with Him. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we are told that we are a new creation – The old has passed away and the new has come. 

I was given a book many years ago called, “Your Scars are Beautiful to God” by Sharon Jaynes. The book is written to help those with emotional scars to find peace and purpose in the hurts of their past. I will be honest, I have not read it cover to cover, but the second chapter, “Recognizing Jesus Through Our Scars,”had a huge impact on me.

The author goes to John 20:19-20 and describes the encounter that Jesus had with His disciples after His resurrection. They were all gathered together in a room when Jesus appeared in their midst and spoke to them, but they did not know who He was. In order to convince them that He was the risen Christ, He held out His arms and revealed His nail-pierced hands. It was then that they recognized Him. The point of the chapter was for believers who have experienced healing from past wounds to not be ashamed to show their scars to the world. In doing so, they are able to share how there is a healing process through Christ.

We have a choice in how we let our scars from the past affect our families and our lives moving forward. We could allow them to produce fear and anxiety, or we could allow God to use them for good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” It is not the scars from our past that defines us, it is who we are now in Christ that tells our story. Sharing it allows us to tell others of His provisions, His mercy, His peace, and ultimately His love. Revelation 12:11 (NKJV) adds, “They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb by the word of their testimony”. Chapter 3 of Jaynes’ book concludes by saying, “God is calling us to not be ashamed of our scars, for it is by those very scars that others will recognize the Savior, Jesus Christ.” 

Relapse • Devotion #3: Depression

Hopeless. Purposeless. Directionless. Abandoned. These are the dark and very real feelings that I experienced during a time in my life when everything that I thought I was working towards came crumbling down. I had no idea what God had in store for me or what He wanted me to do next. I have never felt so alone in my life. I pushed away people who were close to me because I did not want to be a burden. I pushed away from God because I felt He had abandoned me. I was depressed and I was lonely. I yearned to know what God had planned for me and I was scared of an unknown future.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 264 million people suffer from depression as of 2019. The National Institute of Mental Health says that in 2017, approximately 7.1% of the U.S. population over the age of 18 suffered from depression. That is to say, that 1 in 14 adults in the U.S. suffers from some form of depression. It is highly likely that you or someone you know suffers from depression, whether you are aware of it or not. Depression is an epidemic of staggering proportions and there seems to be no simple cure.

Depression is more than mere sadness. It is the inability to get out of bed, the unwillingness to make plans, it is constant exhaustion, and an inability to focus. During that time, I wanted nothing more than to improve myself, to develop a plan for my future, and to heal. Everything I tried was futile; I was attempting to fight my demons as a man, as a person, that could simply muscle through and win with enough perseverance and willpower. All the while, I was ignoring the One who already had a plan for my life, if I would simply take the time to listen. 

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Our Lord in Heaven has a plan for us. It is a plan for a future and a plan for hope. He cherishes each of us deeply and wants so much more for us than to simply exist. If you are at all like me, the thought of an unknown future is terrifying, so you try and fix it yourself. God tells us that He is in control and everything will go according to His plan for our lives. Rather than worry about the future, focus on building a relationship with your Heavenly Father, and strive to listen to His direction for your life.

Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Dealing with depression is terrifying. Battling your own mind is a daunting task. At times, it can feel unwinnable. I remind you that you are not alone. Place your trust in God and draw close to Him, and He will provide the strength needed to weather the storm.

Relapse • Devotion #2: Doubt

When I was twenty-two years old, I caved the right side of my face while tubing behind a boat. What a way to start a devotion, huh? After the accident, I was taken to the ER only to discover that I had shattered the orbital around my right eye and right cheekbone. Also, I had fractures in my jaw and skull. It was not the kind of news you want to hear, but I decided to deal with it none the less. After all, it is my face. I had reconstructive facial surgery at what used to be Pontiac General Hospital a week later. When I woke up, after the anesthesia wore off, the doctor was standing over me. He tried telling me all of the details about the surgery, but the only thing I remember is him telling me that he pulled 56 splinters of bone out of my right sinus, putting them back in place.

After the surgery, an excruciating three-month physical recovery process took place. 

There were many things I wanted to do that I could not. I remember thinking to myself, “Are you kidding me, God?” I found myself wondering where He was. Have you experienced this? Maybe you are sitting at home wondering that right now. I would say things to myself like, “God, what in the world? You there? Asleep? What’s up?” It is like I sent Him a text just to check-in and see how things were going, I saw the read-receipt, and I even saw the ellipsis bubble pop up, but then nothing. Right? “Come on God, respond!” 

Sometimes, my relationship with Him feels very one-sided. Does it ever feel that way with you? I mean, you are reading the Bible, praying (occasionally), trying to follow all of these rules and commands, and you are doing your best. You try to be a good spouse, parent, or child. So, you are doing your part, but then, waiting on God.  

During seasons of waiting, I tend to doubt God. Do you? Abram doubted God. In Genesis 15:2 (NLT), it says, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son?” It is almost like he is saying, “Come on God, where are you? What in the world? Why are You not coming through for me? I am doing my part, now do Yours.” 

Most of us, in seasons of waiting, tend to believe our doubts and doubt our beliefs.  So why not catch yourself and flip that saying around. We forget that waiting is a normal part of following God. When things are not happening the way that we want them to happen, we wonder if God even has our best interest in mind. We fixate on the doubts that creep into our minds and hearts. We get caught up in what we are doing instead of who we are running to. In moments of doubt, hold fast to your beliefs in God, His promises, and the Bible. Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts. If you do, you give God the opportunity to say what He said about Abram, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6 NLT).

Be counted as righteous because of your faith today! Even when you have to wait, believe your beliefs, and doubt your doubts.

Relapse • Devotion #1: Anger

Recently, I had the opportunity to preach on the life of Moses. Having grown up in the church, I thought I knew about all there was to know about him. I knew about him killing the Egyptian man, running to the desert, hearing from God at the burning bush, leading the people out of Egypt and then into the wilderness, and receiving the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai. As I began preparing to give my sermon, I realized there’s a lot more to Moses than just those instances. I saw how he was a flawed man, one might even say he was very flawed. Today, I want us to find comfort in that by looking at one moment of Moses’ life.

In Numbers chapter 20, we see Moses and Aaron leading the people in their wanderings in the wilderness. They have been wandering for about 39 years at this point and are close to finally entering Canaan. The Israelites have been without water for three days and begin to grumble and complain. Moses and Aaron petition God to provide water for them in Numbers 20:6-8 (NIV). Read those verses and see what God commands them to do. He gives them specific instructions: “Take the staff,” and “Speak to that rock before their eyes.” That is not what Moses does. Numbers 20:10-11 (NIV) tells us that in his anger, “Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” Moses chose to speak to the people and strike the rock, instead of speaking to the rock. In his anger at the people, he chose to disobey God. As a result of his disobedience, God did not allow Moses to lead the people into the Promised Land. 

There is a valuable lesson to be seen here. It was not Moses’ anger that was disobedience, but what he did in his anger. His reaction, striking the rock and not regarding God as holy, was the sin. For us, our family lives are not perfect. No mother has been perfect, nor son, daughter, grandparent, or father. When we think about their mistakes and shortcomings, it can lead us to become angry. This is especially true if they have hurt us with their actions or lack of action. The temptation when we get angry at someone is to lash out, gossip, or push them further from us. Today, choose what you will do with your anger. Will you allow it to lead you into sin or will you bring it to our loving, perfect Heavenly Father? 

Our sinful nature tells us that we will feel better once we just “get it off our chest,” by gossiping or telling that person off. Psychology tells us that it does not make us feel better. It just leads us into a dangerous cycle of feeling in control, when in reality, our anger is in control. We see in the life of Moses that we must be very careful what we do with our anger. 

I want to conclude with a final observation from this encounter with Moses. God still brought water out of the rock! In His grace, He still provided for His people, even though Moses disobeyed. In His grace, God will provide for you what you need today if you seek Him. Seek Him today.

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