Every single day in my news feed, I see a headline or a video of someone losing it at a fast-food restaurant, at a big box store, or just standing in line. The number of people on the edge is staggering. Admittedly, I have found myself peering on the other side at times, teetering on my own uncertainty.
If you are feeling stress, you’re not alone. Gallup polls measured 2020 as officially the most stressful year in recent history, with a record-high 40% of adults worldwide saying they experienced a lot of stress the previous day.
And we thought that once 2020 was done, with COVID and a contentious political race behind us, that the new year would issue in a more peaceful existence. Not so.
I have more than a few friends who continue to be so wrapped up in the political scene that they cannot function normally. And when things don’t go their way, full depression sets in. This is important: Politics come and go. Power changes. Trends reverse. It’s not worth the emotional capital.
But for others, it’s not just politics. It’s life.
I want to offer a respite. It’s a change for those whose lives are ruined by circumstance to find solace. I am not speaking necessarily of physical rest, that slumber that wraps and enfolds each night. But I am speaking of a rest that helps you rise above the situation around you. It’s a concept called, “spiritual rest.” This kind of peace ministers to our deepest soul, comforts our troubled hearts, and allows us to face tomorrow — with resolve and confidence.
Even winners get the blues
Not long ago, my pastor resigned this week. He didn’t go out under a cloud or controversy. The church that he and a few friends started a few short years ago has grown to official mega-church size, with 12-15,000 in attendance. With self-depreciation, he regularly preached with a humbleness and a genuine style that drew the hurting, the wounded and the broken. That’s not an easy crowd.
He resigned out of his own depression and to save himself, his family and his congregation, he stepped back.
Some of us would look at the church growth, the lives changed, the praise and ask, “how can you be depressed. You should look at my stuff.” But the truth is, even winners get the blues. Check out this list of notables.
Elijah in 1 Kings 18 experienced a tremendous victory over the pagan gods. In a battle royal, this one lone prophet of Jehovah God took on 850 pagan prophets of Baal and Asherah at Mount Carmel. He laid a bull on the altar and the challenge was made “Call down fire from your gods.” No fire came, despite the prophets best efforts. Then it was Elijah’s turn. Just for good measure, he had 12 jars of water poured on the dry wood, a sort of holy lighter fluid. “Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:38)
This was an ancient world superman! Seemingly, he could do it all. Elijah had experienced victory in every sense of the word! From his fingertips came fire, from his mouth came truth. But at this point, the prophet was exhausted. He wasn’t angry at God, he was simply spent. Elijah, the mighty man of God, then curled up under a pathetic broom tree, baking under the desert sun, begging to die
Jars of Clay are easily broken
My pastor’s last sermon reminded us that our “Treasure is in jars of clay in order to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Our treasure isn’t in an iron pot. It isn’t in a gold sculpture. It isn’t in an impervious rock container. It’s in a jar of clay, fragile and easily broken.
There’s a reason we are made this way. According to Paul, it’s show that the “power is from God and not from us.”
If we were super humans with cloaking power and extraordinary strength, we would rely on those powers to get us through. I’ve been there, relying on my wit, or my brains, or my cleverness to get my through life.
And then the pot breaks and I realize I’m not such a hot commodity.
“We are full of divinity, wrapped in fragility,” my pastor said, fighting back the tears. “Brokenness is not an indictment. It’s currency.”
Be Patient with the other Pots in Your Life
Look, none of us are all that strong. With a simple tip, we fall. With a tap of an instrument, we crack. I spent some time last year with a man who runs a program helping heroin and meth addicts get back on their feet. “The only difference between them and me is one or two bad decisions,” he told me. That hit me — and my judgment of others.
Billy Graham put it well when he said that the smallest package he ever saw was the one with a man wrapped up in himself. Judgmental thinking can make small packages out of big people.
We need to patient with those who struggle with addiction, pain, and depression. No one wants to be like that. And a little grace goes a long way. And kindness. The world needs more of this and if you’re struggling, nothing changes more than kindness.
Jill Phillips sings a song, “Nobody’s Got it All Together” that goes like this:
Working hard to tie up the loose ends
So hard to decide who you let in
Put your best foot forward with a grin
I can see the fear behind your eyes
Wondering if someone will recognize
You’ve grown tired of keeping up the lies
Don’t whitewash the truth about yourself ’cause
Nobody’s got it all together
Elijah, huddled in the cave, waited on God. He heard the thunderous wind, he saw the consuming fire, he felt the trembling earthquake. But the God of rest was in none of that. He did not find rest until he heard God in a gentle whisper. After this ” The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came”
Now refreshed, Elijah departed to complete his business. May my pastor find rest so they can continue on the journey. And that goes for all the other cracked pots out there.
While the yesterday says “if only”, the future says “what if.”