To Those Loved By God,
And that saluation, fyi, is beyond a shadow of a doubt to you, for God so loved the world (Jn 3:16)! You're included. God loves you, yes, even you! Experts warn of a suicide contagion, but the Scriptures have always warned of a great threat (Jesus taught): "[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning." We suffer and perish, because we don't take God at His Word. The devil does not only attack Christians. He attacks all, because he desires that we would all be cut off from the gifts of God. His mission is to destroy.
But how does he do it? I've always been struck by this Word in 1st John and this particular verse right after St. John admonishes us straight up not to love the world (1st John 2:15):
"For everything in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- comes not from the Father but from the world (1st John 2:16)."
When we go along with the delusional evil that all there is in life is our ambitious pursuits and pleasure, we come up dry. In fact, we come up worse than dry, because our souls are more weighed down than ever before. The pursuit of wrong things, can make us even more desperate.
We've been reminded recently about how desperate things can be with the suicides of American fashion designer Kate Spade and CNN's Anthony Bourdain. We are in shock when we hear of these things...these people had so much.
Kirsten Powers of USA Today wrote on June 9th (https://flipboard.com/@flipboard/-americans-are-depressed-and-suicidal-be/f-2ec887a980%2Fusatoday.com):
"In an interview this year, the comedian and actor Jim Carrey talked about 'getting to the place where you have everything everybody has ever desired and realizing you are still unhappy. And that you can still be unhappy is a shock when you have accomplished everything you ever dreamed of and more.'"
"If only we get that big raise, or a new house or have children we will finally be happy. But we won't. In fact, as Carrey points out, in many ways achieving all your goals provides the opposite of fulfillment: It lays bare the truth that there is nothing you can purchase, possess or acheive that will make you feel fulfilled over the long term."
And yet the father of lies specializes in this deception.
All the while, there is the LORD giving us His Word...letting us in to salvation and peace.
But it is easy to miss out on the LORD's resources and His offering of healing. My book Faith That Sees Through The Culture was partially inspired by dualities, paradoxes, both-and concepts, at the same time experiences. These are important to be aware of. If we are not, then sometimes we can easily feel like we are losing our minds.
For example, can Christians feel despair? Yes.
2nd Corinthians 1:8: "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself."
Are Christians also given relief from despair? Yes.
2nd Corinthians 4:8: "We are hard presssed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair."
How does the LORD help us in our despair? How does the LORD help us when every other pursuit in life comes up short?
1. First, by allowing us to cry to Him. He is not the God waiting for us to get our acts together so that we are impressive in our spiritual life and worthy to grab His attention (if only we had Jedi-like status with the cosmos). No, our God invites us to call upon Him in the day of trouble (Psalm 50:15). And if we are wise, we would realize that this is every day! In this way, we truly learn to pray...we pray because we need it, because God commands it, and because God gives rich promises. The Lord's Prayer is the model prayer, but if you'd like to expand a little then use:
a. Luther's garland of four strands:
(1) Instruction: take a Scripture like Matthew 11:28 and recite it and meditate upon it.
(2) Thanksgiving: Use that Scripture as a launching pad for thanking and praising God.
(3) Confession: Confess to God whatever flows out of this meditation.
(4) Petition: Then pray freely and ask the LORD for whatever you need as you seek His will.
b. Use a Scripture-based version of Lectio Divina:
(1) Requis (rest): use an image of Christ (like a crucifix or a favorite artwork of the LORD) and see it in your mind's eye as you breath, relax, get comfortable, be aware of your body and environment. Take your time and give yourself a chance to feel as though you're less restless and more focused.
(2) Lectio (read): read and recite a Scripture (like Matt. 11:28) seven times. Go slowly and really think about the words.
(3) Meditatio (meditate [upon God's Word]): review the Scripture AGAIN another seven times, but this time highlighting key words and concepts (e.g. for example, Jesus bids you to "come" to Him! what a wonderful invitation!).
(4) Oratio (pray): pray based upon the Word you've been interacting with.
(5) Contemplatio: think back and absorb what you have just experienced in the Word of Christ.
Note: don't make this about mysticism. God's Word has intended meaning. Choose Scriptures in which the intended meaning of God's Word is clear. Make this about knowing the Word of the LORD better, filling yourself with it! For example, Psalm 23:1: Since the LORD is your Shepherd, He will give you everything you need for your body and life!
2. Second, He invites us to find Jesus in one another, among those who confess His Holy Name. These are our true brothers and sisters in Christ. In such relationships we find true friends. We have butchered the concept of friend in our culture. What does the word mean to the world anymore? But a true friend sticks closer than a brother (Prov 18:24). He gives the friend with whom we may practice James 5:16; one with whom we may mutually confess our sins and share God's absolution.
Such a friend can ask, "How are you?" And to such a friend, you can say (if you need to), "Not good!" or "Crappy!" or "Depressed!" These friends we need. Darkness loses its power when brought into the light...mutual confession is powerful for this purpose.
3. Third, the Holy Sacrament. Christians say they believe the Holy Bible to be the very Word of God. It is true. It is powerful. And yet in spite of all that the LORD says about His Holy Sacrament -- the LORD's SUPPER -- we often neglect it! Shame on us! Let us rather repent from this neglect. Let us hunger and thirst for it. It is the medicine of immortality as St. Ignatius called it (A.D. 110, Letter to the Ephesians 20)! Let us receive this sacred medicine!
I mentioned above that the two despairs partially inspired my book, but more basically I was inspired by the need for people to receive the gospel presented in a simple and unencombered way. I am eager for people to know for example the many spectacular facets of the diamond of God's Good News in Christ. This gospel rescues from sin, death, and the attacks of the devil. The facets that many folks just don't know about like atonement, reconciliation, redemption, propitiation, expiation, and justification are beautiful and invaluable...these give life through the Word of Christ and they shine light upon our darkness whenever we are in despair and whenever we are under attack.
We must hear it loud and clear, with love and compassion, and in power: you are never alone, the LORD is with you!
Please help me spread the word about Faith That Sees Through The Culture:
Amazon is selling it for $14.99
Kindle Edition at Amazon is $14.24
Concordia Publishing House (CPH) has a special going on right now: $11.24
Soli Deo gloria!
Rev. Dr. Alfonso O. Espinosa