Archive for November, 2014

A Resource for Seasonal or Holiday Depression

Many people begin to think, “I wish I could go to sleep before Thanksgiving and sake up after New Years,” this time of year. If that is you, you are not alone. But too often, in the midst of this season or apparent merriment, those who are depressed or grieving feel very alone and out-of-place.

Below is a video presentation of “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm.” It is meant to walk people through their experience of depression and help them find hope during this “stubborn darkness” (to borrow a phrase from Ed Welch).

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

The complementing studies Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Responsibility Paradigm and Towards a Christian Perspective of Mental Illness will also available in a video format after their presentation

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

STEP 1.
PREPARE yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually to face your suffering.

Depression-Anxiety Suffering Paradigm Part 1 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Blog Post: “A Sample Letter to Help Cultivate Community While Struggling with Depression-Anxiety” (Sample of material in the seminar notebook)

Blog Post: “6 Steps to Wise Decision Making About Psychotropic Medications” (Appendix A from the seminar notebook)

STEP 2.
ACKNOWLEDGE the specific history and realness of my suffering.

Depression-Anxiety Suffering Paradigm Part 2 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

On-Line Evaluation: Types of Depression & Anxiety Evaluation

Resource: Depression-Anxiety Daily Symptom Chart

STEP 3.
UNDERSTAND the impact of my suffering.

Depression-Anxiety Suffering Paradigm Part 3 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

STEP 4.
LEARN MY SUFFERING STORY which I used to make sense of my experience.

Depression-Anxiety Suffering Paradigm Part 4 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

STEP 5.
MOURN the wrongness of what happened and receive God’s comfort.

Depression-Anxiety Suffering Paradigm Part 5 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

STEP 6.
LEARN MY GOSPEL STORY by which God gives meaning to my experience.

 

Depression-Anxiety Suffering Paradigm Part 6 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

STEP 7.
IDENTIFY GOALS that allow me to combat the impact of my suffering.

Depression-Anxiety Step 7 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

STEP 8.
PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me.

Depression-Anxiety Step 8 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

STEP 9.
STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory.

Depression-Anxiety Step 9 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Blog Post: 9 Questions to Help You Steward All of Your Life for


Spring 2015 Summit Counseling Seminar Calendar

Are you interested in knowing what we’ll be covering in the Spring of 2015? Here you go. Below you will find information about the

  • Counseling in Your Local Church workshop
  • Four Gospel-Centered Marriage seminars
  • Sexuality Forum (in conjunction with the Sam James Institute)
  • Problematic Emotions One-Week Intensive (information about academic credit here)

we will be offering this Spring. Go ahead and mark your calendar for the events you want to attend and forward this post to any friends you think would be interested in these topics.

 

COUNSELING IN YOUR LOCAL CHURCH:
Understanding the Liabilities & Possibilities of Lay Care Ministries
Date: Friday January 23, 2015
Time: 9am to 5pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek Campus
Address: 2335 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: $99 / person (lunch provided)
RSVP and Find More Information Here

CREATING A GOSPEL-CENTERED MARRIAGE: FOUNDATIONS
Date: Saturday January 31, 2015
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP link coming soon

LIVING IN 50 SHADES OF GREY
A Cultural Assessment and Christian Education in Sexuality
Sam James Institute Forum
Date: Tuesday February 10, 2015
Time: 6:30 to 7:30 pm – Cindy Peterson, Director of Women’s Discipleship at Summit
Time: 7:30 to 8:30 pm – Brad Hambrick, Pastor of Counseling at Summit
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP link coming soon

CREATING A GOSPEL-CENTERED MARRIAGE: COMMUNICATION
Date: Saturday February 28, 2015
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP link coming soon

EMOTIONS INTENSIVE

  • Monday, March 2 – Depression
  • Tuesday, March 3 – Anxiety
  • Wednesday, March 4 – Grief
  • Thursday, March 5 – Anger
  • Friday, March 6 – Identity in Christ

Time: 6:30 to 9:00 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Campus TBA
Address: TBA
Cost: Free
Credit Available (learn more here)

CREATING A GOSPEL-CENTERED MARRIAGE: DECISION MAKING
Date: Saturday April 25, 2015
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP link coming soon

CREATING A GOSPEL-CENTERED MARRIAGE: INTIMACY
Date: Saturday May 16, 2105
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP link coming soon

Video: Overcoming Depression-Anxiety, A Suffering Paradigm (Step 6)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

The complementing studies  Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Responsibility Paradigm and Towards a Christian Perspective of Mental Illness will also available in a video format after their presentation

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Hard Emotions in a Redemptive Story”
LEARN MY GOSPEL STORY by which God gives meaning to my experience.

Depression-Anxiety Suffering Paradigm Part 6 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Psalm 30:8-12 (ESV), “To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: ‘What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!’ // You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “I cry… I plead” – This psalm does not begin “neatly.” The emotions are raw and desperate.
  • “What profit” – This reveals a battle with a destructive suffering story – Is God trying to turn a profit on my life?
  • “My helper” – Yet even in this false narrative the psalmist is fighting to maintain an accurate view of God.
  • “You have turned” – The negative circumstances were not erased but transformed in a new narrative.
  • “You have loosed” – The result was the removal of sackcloth, a cultural emblem of depressed-anxious emotions.

Teaching Notes

“When we let go of our internal stories and unrealistic expectations about how things should go, we will experience life’s disappointments in a more peaceful way. In other words, choppy waves on the surface of the ocean don’t necessarily disturb the calm below (p. 93).” Leslie Vernick in Lord, I Just Want to Be Happy

“For the Christian, who believes in the crucified and risen Messiah, suffering is always meaningful. It is meaningful because of the one in whose suffering we participate, Jesus… The personal suffering of the Christian finds a correlate in Christ’s suffering, which gathers up our tears, calms our sorrows, and points us toward his resurrection (p. 37).” Kathryn Greene-McCreight in Darkness Is My Only Companion

“I would come to refuse the self-pity and blaming of others. I learned to remind myself of my belief that life is a gift (p. 27).” Kathryn Greene-McCreight in Darkness Is My Only Companion

“Optimism is not about providing a recipe for self-deception. The world can be a horrible, cruel place, and at the same time it can be wonderful and abundant. These are both truths. There is not a halfway point; there is only choosing which truth to put in your personal foreground (p. 205).” Lee Ross, Professor at Stanford University, as quoted by Leslie Vernick in Lord, I Just Want to Be Happy

“Hope is the opposite of fear. Hope is a prediction that God will be good (p. 49)… ‘Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9).’ A phrase like that, just dangling on its own, doesn’t work. You can’t simply command a frightened person to be strong and courageous, and expect a transformation. What makes the command work is this part: ‘God will be with you wherever you go’ (p. 66).” Ed Welch in When I Am Afraid

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?… You must take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, you have to preach to yourself, question yourself… Then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done in what God has pledged himself to do (p. 20-21).” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Spiritual Depression

Spring 2015 Syllabus: “Counseling Problematic Emotions” Graduate or Undergraduate Credit

Do the emotions of anxiety, depression, anger, or grief ever interfere with your ability to enjoy life, relate to others, or be productive in your daily tasks? Do you have friends who come to you seeking guidance in these areas? Do you struggle to live consistently with the confidence and security that your identity in Christ ought to provide? Do you want to be able to communicate more clearly the difference Christ can make for the way we navigate difficult emotional experiences?

If you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, then the Spring 2015 intensive on a Christian approach to difficult emotions would be an excellent experience for you. This series of seminars will be held March 2-6.

A CHRISTIAN APPROACH TO DIFFICULT EMOTIONS INTENSIVE

Monday, March 2 – Depression
Tuesday, March 3 – Anxiety
Wednesday, March 4 – Grief
Thursday, March 5 – Anger
Friday, March 6 – Identity in Christ

Time: 6:30 to 9:00 pm
Location: The Summit Church, North Raleigh Campus
Address: 5808 Departure Drive; Raleigh, NC 27616
Cost: Free
Credit Available (learn more here)

For those interested in academic credit, several options are available through our collaboration with Southeastern Seminary (SEBTS).

  • Sample Syllabus for Certificate Credit - 2015_spr_bco0655_hambrick_syllabus
  • For questions about certificate credit please contact Eli Byrd at SEBTS at 919.761.2281.
  • Sample Graduate or Undergraduate Credit - 2015_spr_bco6551_hambrick_syllabus
  • For questions about graduate or undergraduate credit please contact Shannon Battles at SEBTS at 919.761.2280.
  • Note: Either syllabus is subject to revision, but gives a representation of the workload and expectations associated with each option.

Students from schools other than SEBTS can check with their school’s registrar office about how to transfer these credits. For those seeking to take this course for undergraduate credit, this form is needed to take a masters level course for undergraduate credits.

Please remember everyone is welcome to attend all of our seminars for free. These credit are merely additional ways that you can benefit from these trainings. If you are only interested in one topic, it if fine to just attend one of the evening seminars.

For those seeking certificate credit it is required that that you:

  • Attend  seminars on all 5 evenings from 6:30 to 9:00 pm
  • Complete the reading and writing assignments in the syllabus above
  • Note: The certificate is offered by SEBTS, not Summit, so their Registrar’s office would be the contact point for questions regarding the other courses necessary for this certificate.

For those seeking graduate or undergraduate credit it is required that you

  • Attend  seminars on all 5 evenings from 6:30 to 9:00 pm
  • Attend supplemental lectures each day from 1:00 to 5:00 pm
  • Listen to the supplemental lectures listed in the syllabus above
  • Complete the reading and writing assignments in the syllabus above

If you want certificate, undergraduate, or graduate credit there is a cost of $236 for each credit and a one-time application fee of $30. These fees are paid to SEBTS for enrollment and course credit. You would begin the process earning a certificate by applying for admission at SEBTS.

Our desire for these events is to provide:

  • An excellent learning experience for anyone wanting to learn to manage their emotions in a God-honoring way
  • Resources that can be used in one’s personal ministry whether or not you pursue any formal credits
  • A certificate option for lay people who want to study counseling without pursuing a degree
  • Undergraduate credits for college students exploring the option of studying biblical counseling in seminary
  • Graduate credits for seminary students that will allow them to complete a course like this with viable ministry models they can utilize in the local churches they serve

Please pass along this post to anyone you believe would be interested in these learning experiences.

 

Table of Contents for the New “Scripture and Counseling” Book from the BCC

I had the privilege of contributing chapter 15 to a newly released book Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World with the publisher Zondervan. The contributors to this book are member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

In order to introduce you to this book, I thought I would post the table of contents so you can see the topics covered and the authors for each chapter. I hope you will order a copy and be encouraged about how the Bible speaks to breadth of challenges we face in our day-to-day lives.

PART 1: HOW WE VIEW THE BIBLE FOR LIFE IN A BROKEN WORLD

Introduction: The Preacher, the Counselor,  and the Congregation by Kevin DeYoung and Pat Quinn

1 The Richness and Relevance of God’s Word by Kevin Carson

2 Sufficient for Life and Godliness by  Paul Tautges and Steve Viars

3 Where Do We Find Truth? by Jeffery Forrey

4 What Is Psychology? by Jeffery Forrey

5 Scripture Is Sufficient, but to Do What? by Jeremy Pierre

6 The Christ-Centeredness of Biblical Counseling by Robert Jones

7 A Counseling Primer from the Great Cloud of Witnesses by Bob Kellemen

8 What about the Body? by Sam Williams

9 Caution: Counseling Systems Are Belief Systems by Ernie Baker and Howard Eyrich

10 The Bible Is Relevant for That? by Bob Kellemen

PART 2: HOW WE USE THE BIBLE FOR LIFE IN A BROKEN WORLD

11 The Rich Relevance of God’s Word by Bob Kellemen

12 The Practicality of the Bible for Becoming a Church  of Biblical Counseling by Garrett Higbee

13 Uncommon Community: Biblical Counseling in Small Groups by Garrett Higbee

14 Speaking the Truth in Love by Jonathan Holmes and Lilly Park

15 The Competency of the Biblical Counselor by Brad Hambrick

16 Relating Truth to Life: Gospel-Centered Counseling for Depression by Jeremy Lelek

17 Using Biblical Narrative in the Personal Ministry of the Word by John Henderson

18 Using Wisdom Literature in the Personal Ministry of the Word by Deepak Reju

19 Using the Gospels in the Personal Ministry of the Word by Rob Green

20 Using the Epistles in the Personal Ministry of the Word by Heath Lambert

Conclusion: Lessons Learned through Counseling Experience by Randy Patten

Appendix A: The Mission, Vision, and Passion Statement  of the Biblical Counseling Coalition

Appendix B: The Confessional Statement of the Biblical Counseling Coalition

Appendix C: The Doctrinal Statement of the Biblical Counseling Coalition

Tweets of the Week 11.18.14

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Video: Overcoming Depression-Anxiety, A Suffering Paradigm (Step 5)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

The complementing studies  Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Responsibility Paradigm and Towards a Christian Perspective of Mental Illness will also available in a video format after their presentation

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“God, Can We Rest on this Journey?”
MOURN the wrongness of what happened and receive God’s comfort.

Depression-Anxiety Suffering Paradigm Part 5 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Isaiah 14:3-4 (ESV), “When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: ‘How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased!’” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Given you rest” – Rest is a gift that God wants to give you. Taking time to mourn is not wasting God’s time.
  • “From pain… turmoil” – God takes time to list the types of challenges we face; that add to our need for rest.
  • “Made to serve” – God is acknowledging that this suffering was forced upon his people; they did not choose it.
  • “King of Babylon” – Often pre-figures Satan’s role in the life of New Testament believers.
  • “Oppressor has ceased” – There will be a time when we get to say this about Satan’s tool of depression-anxiety.

Teaching Notes

“Any time a difficult experience has some longevity in our lives, we can gradually derive some personal identity from it (p. 261).” Ed Welch in Depression, A Stubborn Darkness

“The general rule is that those who listen most and speak least will be the most useful to sufferers (p. 6).” David Murray in Christians Get Depressed Too

“The most helpful thing for me was the meals, the offers to do a load of laundry or take the children for the afternoon. Even though I did not accept these offers because of a misplaced sense of pride, which depression can foster, knowing that someone cared enough to offer was a source of encouragement (p. 34).” Kathryn Greene-McCreight in Darkness Is My Only Companion

“The recovery ministries are not right for most people with mental illness. The idea of recovery reinforces the message that we want to help you ‘get over’ your problem so you can be a normal, fully functioning member of the community… This approach is appropriate for issues that truly lend themselves to recovery, but it’s not appropriate for most mental illness (p. 117).” Amy Simpson in Troubled Minds

“Satan is attracted to the inward-turning instincts of depression. Satan can use times of depression as an opportunity for an all-out assault on our faith and confidence in God. He can use the ‘dark night of the soul’ to cast doubt on the goodness and love of God (p. 138).” Brian Borgman in Feelings and Faith

“All sufferers are tempted to believe that their suffering is unique. This lie immediately renders all counsel irrelevant because no one understands and no advice applies. The result is that the aloneness you already experience is now an established fact, and you are given ever more permission to despair (p. 69).” Ed Welch in Depression, A Stubborn Darkness

Counseling In Your Local Church: Understanding the Liabilities and Possibilities — Workshop Schedule

We want you to know the scope of what we hope to accomplish in this workshop. Divergent expectations are a primary contributor to the dissatisfaction that sometimes exists with counseling-related resources (i.e., books, conferences, or personal counseling). We want to model the level of informed consent that should be present in a counseling ministry not only by “what” we say, but “how” we present-promote this workshop.

COUNSELING IN YOUR LOCAL CHURCH:
Understanding the Liabilities & Possibilities of Lay Care Ministries
Date: Friday January 23, 2015
Time: 9am to 5pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek Campus
Address: 2335 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: $99 / person (lunch provided)
RSVP and Find More Information Here

At the end of this event you should…

… be able to identify the functional differences between counseling and discipleship
… understand the advantages and disadvantages that emerge across a spectrum from informal one-another care to formal counseling
… be able to assess your church’s, leadership’s, and communities’ readiness to launch / receive a counseling ministry
… know the kind of leadership and supervision necessary to care well for lay counseling leaders
… grasp how to structure components of lay-led counseling ministries in a way that

1. is liability safe,
2. allows for growth into a more robust counseling ministry, and
3. cooperates well with other resources in your community

This event will not attempt to…

… teach you how to re-create the counseling ministries that exist at The Summit Church (your context likely calls for something different)
… how to create a formal lay counseling ministry utilizing certified lay counselors (this can be good, but it outside the focus of this workshop)
… how to create a parachurch counseling ministry (this would require more time than a one-day conference)

Here is our intended schedule.

9:00 to 9:30
What Is Counseling? Helping Relationships from Discipleship to Counseling

Counseling and discipleship overlap significantly and, any church-based counseling ministry that serves a church well, should have a strong discipleship ministry as its long-term care outlet. Otherwise you would be creating something that was long-term unsustainable and privatized discipleship in a way that detracts from the community life of your church.

In order to determine if your church wants a formal counseling ministry and, if so, how to best develop one, there must be an agreed upon definition of “counseling.” If counseling is simply “every helping conversation” then your church already has a counseling ministry.

In this session you will receive key markers to differentiate the changes in relationship and liability that occur across the spectrum from discipleship to counseling.

9:30 to 10:30
Who Does Counseling? Competency from Friends to Professionals

What level of training is necessary to warrant calling a given interaction counseling? What liabilities and responsibilities emerge as these more formal and artificial relationships facilitated by a church? What advantages and disadvantages emerge as counseling becomes more formal?

How can the early stages of an informal, lay counseling ministry be developed in such a way that (a) it does not create undue liability for the church, and (b) allows for growth into more formal aspects, if those aspects are desirable latter?

In this session we will define five levels of counseling competence across a spectrum from informal to formal counseling that allows you to answer these kinds of questions. The remainder of this event will prepare you to maximally launch and utilize the first two levels on this spectrum.

11:00 to 11:30
Why Wouldn’t Our Church Want This?  

What are the challenges that having a formal counseling ministry presents? What are the character qualities needed in our pastors, congregation, and community in order for a counseling ministry to thrive?

What are common things a church wants from a counseling ministry that are not possible which result in a sense of disappointment about initiating this type of ministry? Conversely, what are the advantages of having a formal counseling ministry which make it “worth it” to face these challenges?

11:30 to 1:00
Lunch // Q&A About Morning Topics

1:00 to 1:50
How to build a church-based counseling ministry from the bottom up?

Based on the definitions and models being presented, how would a church (pastoral team) or individual within a church (lay initiative) begin to develop a counseling ministry?

What existing programs and resources are there and how do they fit within the framework that has been presented?

What supervisory considerations should a church provide for a lay counseling ministry even in its earliest stages of development?

2:00 to 2:50
Understanding the Interface of Different Kinds of Helping Relationships

Not all helping relationships are created equal, nor should they be; one size does not fit all. Consider the differences you experience in your relationships with a friend, pastor, doctor, mentor, coach, professor, or personal trainer. Each plays by a different set of rules and each, when those principles are followed, is good. In this session we want to help you identify how locating a given helping relationship on three spectrums can ensure you help effectively and ethically: (1) formality, (2) expertise, and (3) authority.

3:00 to 3:50
Ethical Issues in Church-Based Counseling Ministry

Counseling ethics are not just about avoiding lawsuits. Too often this is the unintentionally low bar for how churches think about counseling ethics. The purpose of counseling ethics is to ensure that we can care well for people; that is, to ensure that how we care (i.e., method) does not detract from the care we want to provide (i.e., intentions).

There two realities that will help us think more clearly about the material in this section:

  1. Ethics are not a set of abstract principles; ethics are wise decisions in difficult situations.
  2. Counseling is a concentrated collection of difficult situations where various moral-relational priorities are, or at least appear to be, at odds with one another.

4:00 to 5:00
Q&A about Afternoon Topics

COUNSELING IN YOUR LOCAL CHURCH:
Understanding the Liabilities & Possibilities of Lay Care Ministries
Date: Friday January 23, 2015
Time: 9am to 5pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek Campus
Address: 2335 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: $99 / person (lunch provided)
RSVP and Find More Information Here

 

Guest Post by J.D. Greear: “But I Can’t Feel God”

The following is an excerpt from Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You.

If you think being filled by the Holy Spirit means an endless series of miracles, burning bushes, still, small voices, warm fuzzies, and sensations of peace that pass all understanding, then you are going to be disappointed.

The greatest (and most honest) saints have always confessed that they had to walk through many valleys with no sense of God’s presence. Sometimes they nearly went deaf from the heavenly silence. Often they stumbled helplessly in what felt like total darkness. C. S. Lewis wrote that during one of the most painful times of his life, he cried out to God and got:

…a door slammed in [my] face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.[1]

Somehow, these honest words seldom make it into anyone’s list of “favorite C. S. Lewis quotes.”

Have you ever felt this way?

Just because God feels absent doesn’t mean that he actually is. Just because you can’t track his footprints doesn’t mean he’s not walking beside you. If you’re a believer, that feeling of being alone is always an illusion. Here’s how I know:

Right before Jesus died, Jesus experienced true aloneness, true abandonment—and he did it so that you would never have to experience it. He had come to the garden of Gethsemane to commune with the Father and found instead an eternal coffin gaping open before him. The crucifixion, you see, started long before the nails pierced Jesus’ hands. In the garden, God already had begun to turn his face away.

Why is this good news? The essence of the cross was substitution. Jesus faced our aloneness—the utter abandonment we had brought upon ourselves through our sin—so that you and I would never have to. The Father turned his face away from his Son so that the Father would never have to turn his face away from us.

So when we feel abandoned—that’s all it is, a feeling. A lying, deceptive feeling. It has to be. Jesus faced the full measure of our aloneness in our place and put it away forever. By his death, he reconciled us to God, so that we can know he will never leave us or forsake us. In some strange way we can never hope to comprehend, he was abandoned . . . for us.

The Father turned his face away from his Son so we could boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence. Because of Gethsemane, we can know he feels our every pain, hears our every petition, and never takes his affectionate eye off of us. We are literally “engraved on the palms of his hands” (Isa. 49:16). Because Jesus prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we can cry with confidence, “Abba, Father” (that is, “My Daddy”)!

So what do you do when you feel alone?

Simply: walk by faith, not by sight. You must re-believe the gospel, that God has removed the full extent of the curse—all that could ever separate you from him—and has given you Christ’s complete righteousness in its place. You must re-believe that in his finished work you couldn’t be closer to him than you are right now, regardless of how you feel. And you must reclaim the promises of God, almost all of which are made to us for times in which God appears distant.

The gospel declares to us that God has made himself close to us in Christ, holding us even tighter than a mother holds a newborn child (Isa. 49:15). When our feelings tell us that is not true, we must defy those feelings with faith in God’s promise.

So when you can’t “feel” God, be assured, he’s there. The cross assures you that he is. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Nothing can ever separate you from his love. He has united himself, through his Spirit, inextricably to you. And just as with David, and Esther, and Moses, and Joseph, and Paul, the Holy Spirit is likely doing his best work in you in those dark times.

[1] C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1961), 17.

Tweets of the Week 11.11.14

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.