God's plan

Am I Too Far Gone?

But I’m so messed up…

I have a shirt that’s comfy, and cute, and it says, “Dillon Panthers Football,” on it. When it was new, I wore it all the time. Then I got some stains on it that wouldn’t come out. I wore it anyway, but the stains bothered me. Later, I noticed it was getting little holes in the fabric. It’s still hanging in my closet, but every time I put it on, I wonder if it’s too far gone to keep wearing.

Sometimes our lives get so wrecked and so jacked up we wonder if we’re too far gone for God to use us. We look at the stains and the holes and wonder how God could ever make anything good out of the mess we’ve made.

Let me introduce you to the poster boy for being too far gone. I wish we knew his real name, but the only name we know for him was Mob, a name given by the thousands of demons living in him. He was a madman who lived in the cemetery, sleeping in the graves. He roamed around naked, shrieking loudly and mangling his body by cutting it with rocks.

The locals tried to subdue him, but he broke free every time, even when they bound him with chains. (See Mark 5:1-5.)

Too far gone, right? His neighbors would have said he so. Maybe even his own family would have said he was too far gone.

But Jesus knew better. Mob wasn’t so far gone that Jesus couldn’t help him. He wasn’t so far gone that Jesus couldn’t use him.

Jesus crossed a lake and calmed a storm to reach this madman who appeared to be unreachable. Jesus rebuked the demons and brought peace and clarity to the man’s mind. (See Mark 5:6-13.)

The next time we see Mob, he is wearing clothes and in his right mind. Jesus healed him. Jesus clothed him. And Jesus called him: “…Go back to your home and to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how he had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).

The Bible tells us that this naked, raving, body-mangling, cemetery-inhabiting demon-possessed madman became a missionary, spreading the good news of salvation to Jordan and Syria, winning many people to Jesus.

You see, God doesn’t ever look at us like I look at my old shirt. He never wonders if we are too far gone. He never, ever looks at one of his children and sees a hopeless case. He refuses to give up on us. He pursues us. He extends his love and grace to us. He invites us to fellowship with him. He whispers to us, “Your life can be better. Follow me.”

Friend, if you feel your life is so messed up that you can’t see any way to ever make it OK again, that’s awesome, because God’s power finds its fullest expression in our weakness.

God doesn’t just forgive us, he makes us new. He moves us step by step into the life he planned for us. He heals our wounds, even self-inflicted injuries. He clothes us in righteousness. God graciously moves us out of the stench and stagnation of the cemetery into the glory of an abundant life and purposeful calling.

He did it for Mob. And he’ll do it for us, too.

Dear God, I’ve spent enough time focusing on the mistakes in my past and the challenges of my future. I surrender my past, my present, and my future to you. Shape it according to your will. Bring healing, direction, and hope into my life. Thank you for your love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Handling Life's Problems

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

“For we are the product of his hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the anointed Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

According to 2017 research by the National Institute of Mental Health, 18.9% of adults in the U.S. have a mental illness. For those of us doing the math, that’s about two out of every ten people. It could be us, someone in our family, our co-worker, or someone we serve with at church. As Christians, how do we deal with mental illness?

Those who haven’t struggled with mental illness can find it hard to understand the depth of pain experienced by those who do. Charles Spurgeon, a great evangelist who suffered from depression, said, “The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.” The pain is real. The struggle can be daunting.

Let’s look at this issue from two sides. First, if you have a mental illness, God’s word points the way to hope:

  • Ephesians 2:10 says God created you with his own hand. Heaven’s poetry is written on your life. No mental health issue can ever change that. God created you deliberately, loves you unfailingly, values who you are, and has a plan for your life. “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I chose you for a special work…” (Isaiah 1:5). You are God’s beloved, the apple of his eye.
  • God is a “wonderful counselor” (Isaiah 9:6) You can talk to God about your mental illness. Many of the Psalms deal with depression, anger, or fear, and can be used as prayers. Remember, no one knows what you are going through better than the one who created you. Feel free to pour out your heart, your emotions, and your pain to God—he understands.
  • Don’t hesitate to get professional help and medication. When a person has a physical illness, they feel no shame about seeing a doctor and taking medicine. If you have a mental illness, you should feel no shame about seeing a professional and taking needed medicine. Jesus himself said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do…” (Mark 2:17).

Second, how should Christians react to people who have a mental illness? Matthew 7:12 says, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” What if it were you? What if it was your son or your daughter? How would you want them to be treated? We treat others as we want to be treated—with kindness, empathy, and grace.

Dear God, I come to you as your beloved child. Thank you for surrounding me in your love and mercy. Help me to remember your faithfulness and to trust in your plan. You have promised that your grace is sufficient, both for my current circumstances and for every day of my future. Bring strength out of my weakness. In Jesus’s name, amen.