I was thrilled when Thomas Nelson gave me the thumbs up to write His Mighty Strength. The book is built around Ephesians 1:19-20 which essentially tells us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. The promise of the book? – Show the reader how to tap into this incredible source of power.
Then this happened. I was blindsided by a bout of betrayal that took me to the basement of my brain that deals with survival. I had lost control of my life and was fighting hard to regain it. Before I knew it, I involuntarily slipped into a state of clinical depression and couldn’t get back upstairs where peace resided. I was charged to write a book to teach people how to walk daily in the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and most days I could barely raise myself off the couch. The irony was not lost on me, not one bit.
Turns out I am not alone. 264 million people struggle with depression around the world.<1> We are not talking about an occasional gloomy day, but an all-out sense of despair. It affects one in ten Americans each year. It is the primary reason someone dies of suicide every twelve seconds.<2> The latest assessment on the state of American’s mental health is the worse it has been at any point in the last two decades.<3> Adults evaluation of the quality of their life in the U.S. has fell to a low point last seen during the Great Recession of 2008. No doubt there is a direct cause-effect relationship to the pandemic. We just might have a global case of PTSD.
Not all groups are struggling equally, but all groups but one has taken a drop. Turns out Republicans are struggling more than Democrats.<4> I am quite sure this is connected to the outcome of the election. In addition, women, lower-income folks, young adults, and the unmarried struggle with mental health issues more than their counterparts. That has been the pattern for the last twenty years, despite the stress of the Corona Virus.
As pastors and church leaders we can’t ignore this topic. We must let mental health come out of the basement of taboos and speak to it with our Bibles open in partnership with faith-based mental health specialist. Frankly, there’s a bunch of us in ministry who are struggling ourselves. I can tell you from personal experience, it is freeing to name it and claim it.
Turns out there are a few characters in the Bible who, if tested today, would be join the ranks of the millions who suffer from anxiety and depression. Look up the verses for the following men and see if you don’t pick up on the language of a person in despair –
- David – Psalms 69:1-3
- Elijah – 1 Kings 19:4
- Jonah – Jonah 4:3
- Moses – Exodus 32:32
- Jeremiah – Jeremiah 20:14,18
Jesus was described as “a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3) He most certainly did “empathize with our weakness”. (Hebrews 4:15)
The starting place is for pastors to simply call it out and remove the stigma. Mental health struggles are no more a sin than cancer, but that is not how many people in our congregations feel. We then must move beyond diagnosis to prescription. This is where the life and pattern of Jesus gives us the most hope.
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us who believe. That sure does seem like enough power to get us to rise above or at least cope in a victorious way with our mental health struggles. God was giving me a wonderful opportunity to not only write about this truth but to test the theory in my own life.
Here I put the promise and provision to the test in a state of utter desperation. First, Jesus voluntarily emptied himself (Philippians 2:6-7). I take this to mean that he restricted his access to the divine advantages of omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence while he walked the earth. Second, because he didn’t know everything (Luke 2:52), he habitually pursued the will of the Father through prayer and aligned his life to whatever the Father wanted (John 6:38) . Finally, because Jesus didn’t have access to his divine power, he relied on the Holy Spirit to fulfill the will of the Father. It was the will of the Father for Jesus to be crucified and then rise from the dead. Three days later it was the Spirit that performed this mighty feat. (Romans 1:3-4 NLT)
Guess what? The same Spirit resides in us. Eureka! If we want to unleash the power of the Spirit over our struggles, we need to do what Jesus did. We need to empty ourselves of the illusion we are in control over our lives. We then need to align our lives around the will of the Father. The power of the Spirit is reserved for the Father’s will, not ours (a big AHA for me). Finally, instead of trying harder we need to yield harder to the work of the Holy Spirit. With our willingness, he takes over and does miraculous things in and through us.
Earlier I mentioned that all but one group has taken a deeper dip into depression during this season. It should be no surprise this group are those who attend church on a weekly basis. These are the folks that are taking their walk with God seriously. As a result, they are overcoming the struggles of life and a pandemic better than those who are going it alone in their own strength.
Where I am at today? While I believe that my struggle served a purpose in forming and shaping my dependance on God, I eventually rose from the couch and experienced freedom from my anxiety and depression. His Mighty Strength is two years late, but I believe it is a much better book.
In His Mighty Strength, popular pastor and author Randy Frazee explores Jesus’ time on earth to uncover the amazing source of his strength. Jesus continually sought direction from the Father and found the power to live the Father’s will through the Holy Spirit. He said yes to God every day of his earthly life—and we can too.