It would seem that today, many people pray without understanding the proper posture, purpose, and potential power that can be released as a result of an effective prayer life. For many, prayer has become a routine and sometimes mindless exercise in which we engage God only when we need help or when we are asking for something. There is so much that is forsaken when we neglect to embrace prayer as the intimate exchange between a Sovereign Father and his beloved children.
In my last devotion, we looked at Peter’s question regarding how often we should forgive those who trespass against us. Like most of us, Peter was most likely attempting to protect himself from people who would take his forgiveness as a vulnerability. While his question was both understandable and valid, there remains a deeper question that we should resolve. Why should we forgive? What is the motivation behind our acts of forgiveness? The answer to this is love.
“How many times should we forgive?” Many of us can identify with the question Peter poses to Jesus. It’s humorous to think that Peter might have been trying to figure out the cap at which he maxes out of forgiveness to give each person. However, it would seem that behind his question, and ours, is a fear of people taking advantage of our forgiveness. I can almost hear and resonate with Peter’s heart in trying to assess when enough is enough.
Miraculous! That was the most fitting word that I could use to describe what had just happened to me. I had literally just finished my prayer time and had asked God for insight on what forgiveness was. Journeying back to my tent, I was approached by a stranger who gave me her brand-new Bible, and in its cover was a pamphlet on forgiveness. No one had been miraculously healed from a physical malady, but nonetheless, this felt like my “money out of the mouth of a fish” moment.
“Well how do I forgive anyway!?” I said aloud. I was off a lake in Zambia, talking to God during my devotion time. My tone was slightly annoyed, almost in contradiction to the serene environment of my morning meditation. My prayer time had been going smoothly, up until the point when the Lord began to uncover instances in my life that warranted forgiveness… “You’re going to have to show me what forgiveness is!” I demanded out of frustration.
This type of functioning depression is real and is often hard to detect because it is hidden beneath the myriad of works and services that these leaders provide to their community. Everyone around sees the public success, while the leaders struggle with feelings of private failure. So how can we combat depression and restore our hope in God as leaders? We must build strategies that break this code of silence.
Rejoicing in the midst of trials, tragedies, and difficulties does not require the denial of the present pain. What you are seeing, and experiencing is real. Nevertheless, you should rejoice because your success is not rooted in your situation, or even in your ability to fix it—but it is firmly grounded in the track record of God. This is why Psalm 43 instructs us to place our hope in God as the remedy for a downcast soul. This is also why we are encouraged to rejoice in the Lord.
Too many leaders who are struggling in plain sight have never taken the time to assess their personal status. Some of our most powerful leaders delay this very important evaluation because they feel they don’t have the time, or that the movement or ministry will suffer. So they don their leadership hats, dig deeper, and neglect their personal health and wellness. Some even live in an Elijah-style time loop where they dwell in the depressed proverbial cave as they carry out great feats of miracles, signs, and wonders.
The truth is that there are just as many strong servants of Jesus Christ who struggle with feelings of turmoil, bondage, and isolation that characterize depression… Consider Elijah showing courage and conviction, working powerful miracles one day, and then barely holding on to his sanity and will to live the day after. I know this place all too well. There was a time when I was a leader hurting in plain sight. I allowed depression to control my life for years until not too long ago.
I am an extremely busy man. If you’re like me, the concept of balance proves elusive, seeming only to last a week at best. There are always demands on our time, not to mention the requirement to be emotionally present in every area of life. As I have wrestled with this concept of living a balanced life, I must say, with all transparency, that I have begun to rethink my perspective on balance.