The Gift of a Hug

HugOur grandson Tucker lives in North Carolina, and he is definitely a “full-of-life” kind of boy.  Last weekend, we went to visit Sarah and Tucker. Upon arrival we found a very sick little boy.  Normally when we arrive, Tucker runs to us, with a huge smile and arms outstretched for a hug. Not that day!

As we entered the house, Tucker was right up next to his mom where he had been all day.  He was running a fever and was obviously sick.  We knelt down to talk to him, and all he would say through tears was, “Mommy, hold me!  Mommy, hold me!”  We tried to talk with him, but he wasn’t interested in our words.  Again he said, “Mommy, hold me!”  It didn’t take long to realize that Tucker did not need our words; he needed comfort for his pain.  He just needed a loving embrace.

By nature many of us are “fixers.”  We think we have to say just the right thing, or we need words that sound spiritual, or words to cause a painful situation make sense.  We want to make everything okay.  Sometimes we need to realize that people just need a hug.  They just need the comfort of our presence.

This week we will all encounter people in pain.  There will pain of loss, pain of divorce, pain of depression, pain of disappointment, pain of loneliness, pain of fear and many other kinds of pain. We can’t always fix it.  We certainly can’t always have just the right words to bring understanding, but we do have the gift of a hug.

A hug could be the exact thing needed by someone whose path you cross today. Without even knowing it, you could be changing the life of that person.  They could be having the worst day possible, or facing painful situations for which you will not have the right words.  You can possibly change the day, the week, the month or the life of another person simply by giving a hug.

Sometimes, like Tucker, people are just saying, “I just want someone to hold me, to give me the ministry of their presence.”

What’s the best part about it?  Hugs are free and they can be given anytime.

Who will you hug today?

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted …” – Ephesians 4:32a

When You Are Troubled and Depressed

Depress2We have moved several times over the course of forty-three years of marriage. While living in Florida, we lived temporarily in someone’s vacant, furnished home while our home was being built. This required that most of our belongings stay in storage for several months – several months in a storage shed in sunny, HOT Florida.

Finally, the day arrived to move into our home.  As I began unpacking boxes, I got to my couch cushions. They had been pressed up against something and were pushed inward, and would not bounce back. Before that, they were always able to bounce back when pressure was applied.  They had become depressed because of months of being pressured.  As a result, they lost their beauty and usefulness.

That is a description of depression.  Often in life we bounce back from all kinds of pressures and situations.  Then, one day we can’t seem to bounce back, and one day turns into many days.  We just can’t seem to bounce back.  Perhaps we lose that glimmer in our eye, or our contagious laughter.

Sometimes it is hard to confess that we are suffering from the pain of depression. Depression is one of the touchy subjects of the church.  Many proclaim it is a spirit or a demon, and the person needs a laying-on-hands deliverance.  While that might be true sometimes, most often it is not!

I think that depression can be categorized in two basic ways: clinical depression and situational depression. I have asked a friend, who is a Christian counselor, to write a follow-up blog, with some clarification about clinical depression.  That will posted a few months down the line.  Clinical depression is a medical condition requiring professional help with a plan of action to wellness, just as illnesses of the body require a doctor.

There is no way one can exhaustively cover this subject in a blog.  I shall endeavor to give basic info about situational depression and ways to win the victory.

Some people suffer from situational depression.  Situational depression can come from divorce, death, financial problems, abuse, unfaithfulness of a spouse, health issues, infertility, wayward children or other life circumstances.

I will use the death of a loved one as an example.  I personally suffered situational depression after losing our son Bryan. The experience took my breath away at times, caused many sleepless nights and caused me to experience a pall of heaviness that I could not shake. The interesting thing is that I experienced that for a few months after Bryan’s death, and then it strongly revisited as the year 2014 began.  Situational depression can come upon us when pain or disappointment is overwhelming.

There I said it! Barbara Benton has suffered bouts of depression.  I am still a Spirit-filled, bible-believing, God-loving and song-singing child of God!  That statement will shock some, and cause others to look at me a bit differently.  It’s okay.  I am all about helping people understand that they don’t have to be overcome by life, but can be an overcomer in life.

What have I learned through these times?

  1. God is not mad at a depressed person.  He wants to comfort the heart and bring peace.
  2. Stay in His Word, not because we must read daily or we are bad Christians, but because much strength comes as the Word of truth penetrates the dark night of the soul.  Walk around reading the Psalms aloud. Insert your name as you read. For example: The Lord is Barbara Benton’s shepherd.  He will cause ME to lie down in green pastures of rest. He will do that because “I” am His child.
  3. Press through the “I don’t feel like it” emotion.  The Word of God is true, firm and unchanging.
  4. Have faith in God. Trust in the darkness what you have learned in the light.  It WILL bring you through. Trust what God says rather than your feelings. Feelings can be deceptive.
  5. Talk with a close friend or family member who can be trusted, and who will pray with/for you.  The devil would love for you to keep it a secret.  I went through a period of not wanting others to know how much I was suffering. Make regular prayer appointments with those people.  Prayer is essential, and the power of what it can do is immeasurable.
  6. Exercise.  Don’t hole up in your home.  Staying in all by myself was a great temptation.
  7. Speak to a Christian counselor, if needed.  That person can help to put things in perspective.

It is impossible to cover all that the Bible says about depression, sorrow and hopelessness, so I will only share a bit.

  1. David was overwhelmed with grief and sadness, his heart was desolate, and his tears fell all night
  2. Jonah, Jeremiah, Job, and Elijah expressed feelings of rejection, loneliness, self-pity, hopelessness, overwhelming grief, and wish they had not been born.  It seems they are expressing more than temporary sadness, but symptoms of depression.
  3. After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi asked that her name be changed to “Mara” which means bitterness.
  4. In Corinthians 2, Paul had symptoms of depression: his flesh had no rest, he was troubled on all sides, he was cast down, he had fears within, and he despaired of life.
  5. Hannah had many of the symptoms of depression, and her spiritual leader instantly, and incorrectly, accused her of a spiritual problem.

God brought each of them through their times of despondency.  God saw where each was emotionally. God cared. God brought them through.  God wants to do that for you! God does want us to live life abundantly, which is His ordained plan for the believer.

God is our hope in the midst of depression.  One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is with us when we are in trouble, including depression.  The message is clear. When depression hits, fix your eyes on God, His power, and His love for you.  This is what God has declared:

  • The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
  • The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. (John 14:16)
  • Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

What do I want you to take away from this blog?   You are not a horrible Christian if you have been through, or you are going through depression.  God does not love you any less. I also want you to know that I can testify to this: “He has turned my mourning into dancing. He has put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.”  I want to you know that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”   Though we go through dark times, God will bring us back into a time of rejoicing. Indeed, He will! When you are troubled and depressed, there is hope in God. I can testify to that!

Sound the Alarm

sound alarmThis week in the greater Birmingham area, we were on alert for bad storms with possible flooding overnight.  Sure enough, we were awakened several times with loud claps of thunder.  Twice during the night, our weather alarm sounded, requiring us to get up and pay attention to the warning.  The warning called for our area to be on alert because of flash flooding.  We were tired and annoyed because there was no problem where we live.  We did not need to hear the alarm.  We did not want to be awakened from our sleep by an alarm.

As I watched the early news this morning, there were many who had to abandon their homes in the middle of the night.  Many had to be rescued by boat.  They needed the alarm.  Their lives depended on the alarm.  I was more concerned about my own comfortable place than for those who needed the alarm.

Sometimes when we hear preaching/teaching that sounds the alarm for the lost, it’s easy to say, “I don’t need that.  I am safe.”  It’s easy to wish the alarm would go away, because we are safe.  However, the alarm is for those who do need it.

  • Noah’s message from the steps going up to the ark was not, “Something good is going to happen to you!”
  • Amos did not confront the high priest of Israel proclaiming, “Confession is possession!”
  • Jeremiah was not put into the pit for preaching, “I’m okay, you’re okay.”
  • Daniel was not thrown into the lion’s den for telling people, “Positive thinking will move mountains!”
  • John the Baptist did not preach in the wilderness and have his head chopped off because he preached, “Smile! God loves you!”

Instead what was the message of all these men of God? Their message can be simply put in one word, REPENT!

I love to hear a message on “I know the plans I have for you, and it’s good.”  I love a message on “Speak to the mountain and it will move.”  There is a time and place for these messages, but it is still essential to sound the alarm, to preach the truth of the Gospel.

Jesus sounded the alarm.  As a matter of fact Jesus was clear in several passages of scripture including Luke 13:1-5,  “About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple.  “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered?  Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem?  No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”

I am thankful for the alarm that caught my attention and then let me see that God made a way for me.  “God so loved the world He gave His only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”  – John 3:16   

Praise God for His grace and mercy.  I am so thankful that someone sounded the alarm and I heard it.  What joy that I can now sing:

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.