As we continue our series of lessons from horror, I want to look at something important that we don’t take nearly as serious. Mental health is something that is becoming more and more of a conversation, and that’s a good thing. There has been a stigma surrounding it for so long, people being afraid to open up that there seems to be something off, people like me. For a long time, I have struggled with anxiety, and haven’t always felt able to talk. My family and wife are the ones who have helped me be open and able to talk. They are safe people. This is a term that many have heard when it comes to mental health, find safe people to be open with. It can be hard to find these safe people, but we need to realize that having community is so vital, no matter what you may be going through. The sad thing is, many of us choose poorly. We choose negative influences over the positives, because we have an enemy working against us. This is a topic I talk about with students and kids about, because negative influences can lead us into some dark spots. God has designed us for community, so find a safe one.
It’s that time of year again! Spooky season, which means it’s one of my favorite times on my blog. I love looking at old b-horror movies because God uses them to teach me things about life and fear. You see, people give this season too much power than it needs when it comes to Halloween, I like to take that power away and help you learn what scripture says about fear and spiritual warfare. One of my favorite tropes in old horror movies is the moment where our protagonist isn’t sure how they are going to handle this threat. Zombies, vampires, ghouls, goblins, and creatures of the night; the odds can be very stacked against our hero. Sometimes in life we can be in the same spot. Satan keeps attacking, keeps throwing fears your way. “you aren’t good enough.” “You’ll never make it.” “Just give up” You’ll never be remembered.” Real fears that creep in. The truth is, these can really weigh us down, and if we aren’t careful, the bloodsucking fiends will win, but we have a God who gives us a chance; and that chance is all we need.
Worship is powerful. It’s a tool that we have to enter the spiritual realm with praise. I know that kinda sounds like a science fiction/ superhero plot, but the reality, it’s the truth. One of the most powerful parts of our walk is worship, not because we gain something from it, but because we give praise to our creator. Many Christians like the idea of prosperity gospel, where when we enter a relationship with God, he gives us everything we desire. The problem is, this is a false belief. When we enter a relationship with Christ, the desires of things on this earth are meaningless and lead us to desire gifts over our savior. The true power of the gospel is that we have a God who died for us to set us free, so that we could come to him in relationship and spend an eternity with him. Blessings come from an outpouring of our pursuit of Christ alone. What does that have to do with worship? Well worship is often misunderstood. That’s why I like talking about worship, because I’m not a worship leader and can sing alright, worship leaders are great, but can get lost in their passions. I want to talk about what worship is and what it does, because in order to know how to worship, we have to understand God’s heart for it.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
During this season of prayer and fasting, our church holds a morning prayer time throughout the week. One morning as we began worship, I saw a man take his seat. The thing I noticed about the man, was that he was shadow boxing as he got to his seat. It’s a small thing, something that can be easily disregarded, but that picture stuck with me. So, I prayed into that picture, asked God what he was trying to say to me. Then it clicked. Prayer is often looked at like a small part of our walk with Christ, that it’s an asking of God to get the things we want. This is so wrong, prayer is not small, prayer is not to be overlooked, prayer is communication with the creator of the universe.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”
I’ve been feeling angry recently. Not at a person or a certain event, just a general anger that has been bubbling underneath the surface. I’ve been frustrated with my plan, and that’s the root of it, my plan. It might be easy to miss what I mean, but it’s the truth. I sometimes fall back onto my plan, what I think is best for the current state of my life and my life moving forward. Things aren’t unfolding the way I would want it to, and that’s frustrating, but I need to redirect my focus. I’ve been focusing on the things that have or have not yet happened to me, and how that doesn’t fit in with the way I wanted my story to play out. The truth is, there is a mad titan messing with my head, telling me it’s all about me, I need to know the battle plan of the enemy, and I need to remember that there is a God bigger than my faults who knows my name. What I just referenced was what I have been writing on for the past month. I’ve been writing it because I believed it’s what you, dear reader, needed to hear. What I have come to realize is that it wasn’t simply just for you, but for me as well.
The title of this blog comes from a song by one of my favorite artists, Julien Baker. My close friend Daniel turned me onto her music, and it came just at the right time of my life. You see, this past year has been a season of unknowns. Lots of questions and self-doubt keep creeping in, causing me to grow more and more anxious. I ask myself, where do I fit in this world? What’s my place? What’s my purpose? I have these questions swirl because one moment, I feel like God is calling me to a certain area, and the next it feels like I can’t win. It’s hard being a graduate, everyone wants young fresh ideas, but want someone with years of experience under their belt. Not to mention the stereotypes that are perpetrated about millennials, things like we don’t work hard (except for the fact that many of us have two or three part time jobs to survive…*sips tea*). It’s easy to then translate these unwinnable odds as marks against myself, that I’m not good enough, but the truth is; we are called and we are gifted.
I love old 80’s and 90’s cartoons. I love the over-the-top action, the color (oh man that color pallet!), and the laser guns. Like for real, every bad guy was armed with a laser gun (Fun fact from Joshua’s film knowledge, it was a law that you could not have real guns on children TV shows. Oh, how far we’ve gone). The best part of these cartoons were the public service announcements. G.I. Joe, Transformers, and X-men would all warn children of the dangers of not wearing seatbelts or talking with strangers; always ending with the phrase, “knowing is half the battle.” I love these commercials, not only because it’s good to not go anywhere near that spooky stranger, but it tells us a lot about how we should prepare in a spiritual battle we face. I’ve been talking each week this month about having spiritual victory, which means, knowing our enemy is half the battle. Satan is the king of lies, which we talked about last week, and often in our lives when we are caught off our guard, we can take challenges and lies as being things of God. We ask God why you would do this, the truth is, he didn’t. God created our world to be perfect and everything in it to be good, but we rebelled because off the trickery from Satan.
May is Mental Health Month. This is something near and dear to my heart, both as I have suffered from anxiety and depression, as well as countless people in my life that have dealt with similar mental health struggles. It’s important to shine a light on mental health, because for far too long people have been scared to open up and get the help that they need. I think as Christ followers, we need to realize that often mental health is tied into spiritual health. I’m not saying that if you struggle with mental health issues that your spiritual walk with Christ is lacking, I would be foolish to insinuate that. For the most part though, I do believe that mental health can be used against us as we try to grow closer in our walks with Christ. We often feel the most pressure and mental attack when we are on the path God has set out for us. As we walk in the giftedness that God has equipped us with and fight towards reaching the world, that same mad titan that we talked about last week (check it out here), begins to switch up his tactic. If he can’t bring us down by a storm, he’ll try his best with a whisper. “You’re not good enough.” “That test defines who you are.” “What they say about you is true.” The father of lies (John 8:44), these thoughts, they can so easily take root and begin to choke out all life, but they have no power over our great God. These thoughts that are whispered in our minds can disrupt our progress, and the truth is, we need to realize that it’s not about us.
At the time of writing this, Avengers: Infinity War, is only a few days away. I’ve been waiting years for this. Literal years. I love comics, and when Iron-Man first came out, my dad and I stayed after the credits and saw a glimpse of Nick Fury talking to Tony Stark about a little team he was putting together. Then, years after that, Marvel’s Avengers premiered, with another scene after the credits showing a smiley purple guy. I left the theater stunned, Thanos was coming. Being a comic kid, I knew the mad titan, a really bad dude who leaves a wake of destruction in his path. A big purple alien from the moon of titan, bent on taking over the galaxy and harnessing the power within it. Then he gets even more power with infinity gems, and all hope seems lost. The avengers have to band together to stop an unstoppable force. I can’t wait to see this in film form, but this mad titan reminds me of some of the same struggles we face in our own lives. Do you ever feel like whenever you are moving forward, something always seems to go wrong? Something begins to tempt you, a person in your life says words that hurt your soul, you fight those thoughts of self-doubt and loathing in your mind; it can seem almost impossible to survive. These are cases of what we call “spiritual attack.” This can be worse than a physical attack, often crippling us, but the fact is, when we remember our savior we find new hope. The mad titan is nothing compared to the love of God.
“When you go to war against your enemies, you might see that they have horses and chariots. They might even have an army stronger than yours. But don’t be afraid of them. The Lord your God will be with you. After all, he brought you up out of Egypt.”
Life can seem overwhelming most of the time. Stress increases the pressure in our schedule, the battles we face each day with addictions and past sin can haunt us, our struggles with our mental health can overwhelm our thoughts, and the doubts that come from our thoughts and words spoken over us create an unrelenting fight. This is the strategy of Satan, to get into our heads, into our minds and make us see a losing battle. Each day we are fighting in a war, one that in our own power, we are hopeless in winning. Our human nature is fallen and our enemy is very real, he wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). This lack of hope causes us to become overrun in the trenches, we lie in wait, hoping we can get the upper hand. The truth is, when we step into the truth that our savior is stronger than all things and he saved each of us, only then can we live in victory.