Tears to Joy

Tears to Joy: September 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hope for a Weary Soul

Over the past few weeks I have been inundated with calls and meetings with people in crisis. Life is tough...there are days when we all wonder how we will persevere. In times of extreme stress, our brain releases cortisol in effort to help us regulate our stress response so that we can return to a state of homeostasis. In moderation, cortisol is a helpful hormone. The problem is when we live under constant duress, the body exerts excessive amounts of cortisol which can lead to high blood sugar, weight gain, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, and suppresses the immune system. I wish this list was as bad as it gets, but sadly, stress leads many to consider suicide as an option for dealing with their pain. (Just minutes before posting this I received word from a loved one of a suicide in her circle of friends). 

There are times when we are unable to eliminate stressors in our lives, so what's a person to do?  The answer lies in our ability to find healthy coping mechanisms to eliminate stress. We need to combat stress physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Most of us know that aerobic exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep all work to reduce the effects of stress. We can also combat stress symptoms by managing our mental health. Meditation calms a person physically and emotionally, leading to better mental health. In addition, research shows that practicing the spiritual disciplines helps to deter the harmful effects of stress. 

The next time you are overwhelmed with stress, take a time out. Get alone with the scriptures and meditate on God's Word. Some passages that have helped me in the past are:

"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail."  Lamentations 3:22

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faithproduces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."   James 1:2-5

"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  Isaiah 40:31

As well as Isaiah 43 and Hebrews 12

What are some passages that have ministered to your soul in dark times?

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Seized with Remorse

When asked to discuss suicide in the Bible, most people point out Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. Recently I began to meditate on Matthew 27 and tried to imagine what was going through Judas’ mind when he betrayed Jesus. Did he know the chief priests wanted to kill Jesus? Did he think they were going to give him a position in the church or community that would usher in the new kingdom? What exactly was he hoping for?

Whatever Judas thought, we know that he was deeply grieved by the actual events that followed his betrayal.

We, like Judas, rationalize our sin. We try to justify why it is ok to betray the ones we love (through gossip and deception) by convincing ourselves that it is really in their best interest. Rarely does the outcome bring our intended results.

When Judas heard that Jesus had been condemned, he was “seized with remorse.”  In other words, Judas was consumed with guilt. He tried to soothe his guilty conscience by giving back the silver, but the elders basically said, “Sorry man. The deed is done.”  In anguish and shame, Judas cried out, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

I wonder if the other disciples knew what Judas had done. As far as we know, he didn’t confess his sin to the other disciples. If he had, would they have forgiven him or would they have shunned him? Regardless, Judas felt more alone than ever before. His guilt was unbearable…he could not carry the burden of his sin.  Judas only saw one way out of the insufferable pain – death. “Then he went away and hanged himself.”

September is Suicide Prevention Month. Millions of people die by suicide each year. I have spoken with numerous women who lost their husband’s to suicide. Many of these men lived with guilt and regret (from affairs, poor financial decisions, deceit, hypocrisy, drug and alcohol abuse, and more). Sadly, these men believed that their sins were unforgiveable and they were consumed with guilt and shame, and lost all hope.

I want to clarify the difference between guilt and conviction. Conviction leads to repentance and change. Guilt continues to berate us and remind us of how terrible we are. The former brings restoration, while the latter breeds self-deprecation and shame.

Judas was seized with remorse; he was filled with regret. I’ve yet to meet anyone who survived a suicide attempt that didn’t live with some form of regret. Many letters left behind from those who died by suicide also express regret…there are times when the person doesn’t really want to die, but only want to live without the pain – whether physical or emotional.

I don’t think Judas wanted to die; when he left the temple, he threw the silver coins back into the temple. This was an act of desperation; he could no longer live with the knowledge of his betrayal. Death seemed his only out.

I’ve heard it said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. While this may be true, suicide merely shifts the pain of the one who dies to the ones left behind. When my first husband died, he transferred his pain to our family and friends as we sought to make sense of his death.

Georgia has the highest attempted suicide rate in the nation, while Delaware has the lowest (SAMSHA, 2009). What can we do to help individuals who are contemplating suicide?

First and foremost, we can listen. Research revealed that in 80% - 90% of all suicides, the person has told someone of their intent prior to taking their lives. These are often cries for help. Don’t take a threat lightly. For more information on how you can help someone, click here.

I want to leave you with the words of the Psalmist:

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, for the help of his presence.”  Psalm 42:5

No matter what you are going through, there is hope! Cling to that hope, and when you feel like you’ve lost hope, reach out to someone you love…sometimes hope may seem hidden, but it is always there. Better yet – God is always there; He is on the throne. He sees your pain. He cares. You can trust him.

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