Oct. 29th, 2018 | Series: Hills + Valleys

Sermon Content
HILLS & VALLEYS: The Depressed Prophet  1 Kings 19:1-9    (2nd Service)

What do you do after you’ve been miraculously fed by ravens; they’ve brought you little cakes in the desert?  In a middle of a drought, you had a brook that gave you enough to drink.  You saw oil and flour not run out; miraculously multiplied over and over and over again; God’s provision that’s unmistakable.  You saw somebody raised from the dead, because you prayed and laid down on this young boy and he came back to life.  Then you stand on Mount Carmel and you call down fire from heaven and it comes down.  {Quick survey—How many of you have down ANY of those things?}  What do you do after that?  After that scorched earth is still breathing up the remnant of that fire, where you see these prophets that are slaughtered in this valley.  I mean, this is when, if you’re Elijah, you have people hoist you up on their shoulders and carry you down the mountain, right?  This is where you cue the confetti for the Super Bowl parade.  This is where there’s high fives and there’s no going back.  This is where you beat your chest and go, “That’s my God!”  Only that’s not what happened!  As high as Elijah was on that hill, he drops almost immediately to the valley.

1 Kings 19.  We’re going to see more of the human, frail side of Elijah this morning.  I think maybe we can relate to that side of him a little bit better than we can relate to the side that calls fire from heaven and sees it happen.  I don’t know.  Just me.  Verse 1 —  Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. {You’ll remember, if you’ve been here over the last few weeks, Jezebel is Ahab’s wicked wife.  She’s a worshipper of Baal.  She’s brought that worship to Israel, the Northern Kingdom.  She’s killed many of the prophets of Yahweh.  She’s a blood-thirsty, vindictive, violent woman.} So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods {Those gods that were silent, those gods that weren’t able to produce fire, those gods that Yahweh was more powerful than….those gods.} deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”  Then Elijah said, “Well, MY God raised the dead!  And MY God called down fire from heaven.  And MY God is with me.  And MY God is for me and you’re not going to tell me what to do because…. my God is greater//My God is stronger//My God is higher than any other…   Right?  That’s what I expect and that’s what I hope for from one of the ancient prophets of Israel, one of these guys we still name kids after.  That’s what I expect.

Verse 3 — Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  {Wait! What??! You just saw God call down fire from heaven, dude.}  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness.  He came to a broom brush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.  “I have had enough, Lord,” he said.  “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”    I’ve had enough!  Have you ever been in that place?  I’ve just had enough.  I’ve had enough of the pain.  I’ve had enough of the doubt.  I’ve had enough of the questions.  I’ve had enough of the cloud that just seems to sit there.   God, I’ve had enough.  And yet, this is one of the prophets of Israel, this is one of the heroes of the faith.  One of the people we look to and go, “We should be more like Elijah.”  And what he says in this text is I’d rather die.  God, just come kill me now.  As much as he’s been on the mountain and he’s seen God work, now he’s in the valley of the shadow of death.

For some of us, there may be some cognitive dissonance there, because maybe we grew up in a church culture that said, “Well, faith is like the magic blue pill and when you take it, every one of your troubles goes away.”  If you’re depressed, if you’re upset, well all that means is you’re just not trusting Jesus enough.  Here’s what happens then—We start to play this game with ourselves where we believe the people in the Bible were sort of different than us.   If we do struggle with things like depression; if we struggle with things like suicidal ideation; if we’ve walked through, or are walking through, the valley of the shadow of death, this becomes an unsafe place to talk about it.  The place where we should find hope, we can’t because we’re unwilling to share the deepest parts of our pain and the deepest parts of ourselves.  I want you to hear as clearly as I can say it this morning, all throughout the Scriptures, we see people who are faithful followers of God struggling with mental health issues.  We see people all throughout the Scriptures who see God move mightily, and then go, God, I don’t even want to live anymore.  See Jonah (4:3) for example.  See David (2 Samuel 12:15-23) for example.  See the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 1:8) for example.  After his ministry in Asia, he says:  We were under great pressure, {life was so hard there} far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 

It breaks my heart that some how, some way, over the course of time, the church has become an unsafe to say, “I’m not okay.”  I read a blog, this week, entitled “Proverbs and Prozac.”  This woman writes about her journey and says: “I joined a Bible study group at church.  The leader was an older, well-respected long time member of the church.  When the topic of depression came up, her response was, ‘If you are truly a Christian, you should never be depressed.  You have no need for anti-depressants, you have Jesus.’  With comments and attitudes like that, is it any wonder we put on our church masks on Sunday mornings?  We end up keeping secrets; fearing we will be judged ‘not good enough’ or even ‘not a real Christian.'”

My son has this unique ability to the get words of songs wrong in the most beautiful ways.  We were riding in the car the other day, and I don’t know where he heard Spice Girls.  I can only assume it’s from his mom!  He’s singing in the car, “If you want to be my lover, you’ve got to get rid of my friends…”  Maybe my favorite of all time is that song “Story of My Life.”  He sings, “Story of my life, a cucumber…”  Cucumber??  The song’s not about vegetables!!  What??

Lean in for a moment.  I think we’ve gotten the words to this song wrong!  That we’ve said that in order to be a follower of Jesus, you’ve got to have it all together.  The only problem with that is the people that told us about Jesus didn’t have it all together.  So I just want you to know, if you’re here today and you struggle with mental illness, if you’ve wrestled through depression, if you’ve even had thoughts of taking your own life, one, I want you to know, we see you.  This is a safe place.  We’re for you.  We love you.  You do not have to have it all together to be welcomed here.  It’s okay to not be okay.  I know for some of you it was a struggle just to get out of bed this morning.  To get your clothes on.  To put one foot in front of the other.  To decide I’m going to go after it again.  I know for some of you, walking in the doors of a place like this just raises your fear, raises your anxiety, your heart beats fast the entire time you’re in here.  I just want you to know, I’m proud of you.  Good job!  We see you.  We love you.  We care about you.  It’s a safe place to not be okay.

One of the greatest preachers the church has ever known, Charles Spurgeon, very publicly wrestled with depression.  Here’s what he wrote:  “Fits of depression come over the most of us.  Usually cheerful as we may be, we are at intervals cast down.  The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.”   It happens to a lot of us.  The latest statistics would suggest that somewhere between 15-20% of adults in America struggle with, or will struggle with, depression of some sort.  There’s a number of different reasons for that, but if you hear nothing else from me today, please hear me say that there’s no simple answer for depression.  There’s no simple ‘this is why’ and there’s just one thing.  It’s way more complicated than that.

Oftentimes, depression leads to this gloom, this sadness, this type of feeling of doom, where we don’t see any way out.  Just like Elijah, there’s people who’ve said, “I’ve had enough.”  Instead of saying to God, “Take my life,” they’ve taken their own.  Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America today.  But listen to this, it’s the LEADING cause for death of people ages 10-24.  Let that sit on us for a second, you guys.  For our middle schoolers and our high schoolers and our college students, the leading cause for death amongst ages 10-24 is suicide.  I mentioned that I was going to be talking on this subject and I had a friend text me and say, “My brother took his life August 20th of this year.”  I had somebody after first service come up and say, “My son took his own life a few years ago.”  If you live in this community, you know that Arapahoe High School has been hit especially hard.  They’ve had two students take their own lives in the first few months of school.  You guys, this is an epidemic!  If it doesn’t break our hearts as the church, then we’re not adequately valuing the image of God that he’s placed in every single human being that walks the face of this earth.

We’ve got to enter into that pain a little bit this morning.  I feel that God has sent me on a mission.  One is to break the silence.  To say that as a church, these are things we’re going to talk about, we need to talk about.  We cannot be silent on one of the most important issues of our day, and our time, and we will not be.  The first is to break the silence.  The second is to bring hope.  I am convinced that God has designed us for life and life abundant.  That’s not easy, but it’s possible.  If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope today, I can’t say how glad I am that you’re here.  I know my words can’t change anybody, but I believe that the Spirit of God is living and active and at work in this place today, and I’m praying that you get a word of hope today.  What the Scriptures are going to show us through Elijah’s life and struggle with depression and suicidal ideation is this:  We are holistic beings.  We’re physical, spiritual, emotional, cognitive beings.  And it all matters!  We’ve got to learn how to fight for our wholeness.  I’m so glad we’re a church that hosts things like overcome groups and “My Quiet Cave” that wrestle through mental health/illness issues.  I’m so glad that we have Celebrate Recovery.  We’ve said this is so important to us.  And it is as a church.  That we have counseling available for people.  That we have mentoring.  I’m so glad that we’ve said we want to be a church that teaches people how to fight for their wholeness, for their life, for their vitality.

In this text, we’re going to see a few things Elijah runs up against, that we can see in our lives too.  They are either threats to our wholeness OR they are pathways to flourishing.  It’s the same thing, but it just depends on what we do with it.  Look with me at Elijah’s life and story in 1 Kings 19:3-4.  Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness.  He came to a broom brush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.  “I have had enough, Lord,” he said.  “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 

There’s two things that start to stand out to me.  One, Elijah was afraid.  Two, Elijah looks at his life in comparison to other people.  Elijah’s starting to tell himself a story.  God, you came through once, but I’m not sure you’ll come through again.  God, I’m high upon this mountain and I’m not sure I can stay there.  God, you’ve done miracles and I’ve seen you work mightily, but, God, what’s going to happen tomorrow?  Sure, I’ve seen you defeat Baal, but have you seen Jezebel?!  For Elijah, his greatest success—catch this—leads almost immediately to this feeling of desperation.  As much as he’s on the mountain, he’s almost immediately in the valley.  Baal couldn’t take Elijah out, but Elijah could sure take himself out.  He started to do so with the stories he told himself.  What he was thinking in his mind.  The most powerful enemy you may face probably won’t come from the outside….it will come from the inside. It will be the story that you start to tell yourself. {Slide reads:  The stories we tell —> MIND}

Elijah’s story was two-fold.  Elijah was afraid.  Yeah, he’s afraid of Jezebel.  He’s afraid she’s going to take him down.  Notice how fear leads him to anxiety.  He starts to just react.  He starts to get a little bit, what we might call, manic.  Notice how illogical his line of thinking is. God, I’m so afraid I’m going to die that I want you to kill me.  That’s what he says and that’s the effect of fear, that leads to anxiety.  It’s the story that we’re telling ourselves.  God, there’s no way you can move in this.  God, there’s no way you’re going to come through.  God, you must not love me enough to defeat Jezebel; I thought that was the game plan we had, but we’re not moving forward from there.  God, I don’t see you.  God, I don’t feel you.  God, I don’t hear you.  God, I don’t matter to you.  God, you’ve abandoned me.  This is the story we often start to tell ourselves.

Here’s the second thing he says:  Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.  What’s he doing?  He’s comparing himself to others.  Where did Elijah get the idea that he had to be better?  Very few of them saw fire rain down from heaven, but, nonetheless, where did Elijah get the idea that in order to be used by God he had to be the best, the brightest, one without failure, one without flaws…..  Where did Elijah get this idea?  He does what so many of us do.  He starts to go down this downward spiral, because he’s looking at everybody else, comparing himself to them, and going God, WHY?  God, where are you?  God, I’m not as pretty as her.  God, I’m not as successful as him.  I’m not where I should be at my age.  I’m not as good as a mom, or as good as a dad, as that person.  I don’t have good relationships with my kids and I’m at a distance from them and look at everybody else.  I’m not as happy…not as wealthy…not as successful as I think I should be.  It’s the story we tell.  Will you just receive this for one moment?  You. Are. Telling. Yourself. A Story.  All of us are!  The question is….is it a TRUE story?  Is it true?  If comparison was hard back in the ancient world, how difficult is it in a selfie generation or in a day and age where, on social media, we broadcast all of our successes and conceal all of our failures?  It’s so easy to be going down that rabbit hole of comparison, isn’t it?

My friend, Eddie, who was here first service, has a saying he’ll repeat often.  “Normal is just a setting on the dryer.”  That’s all it is…..a setting on the dryer.  There’s no such thing as a “normal” person.  Turn to the person next to you and say, “You’re not normal!”  None of us are!  Here’s the way the Scriptures give the impartation (Hebrews 12:1) — Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for   That’s the way we feel sometimes, isn’t it?  The race that’s marked out for YOU.  Your situation.  Your wiring.  Your capabilities.  Your gifting.  Your history.  Your you-fill-in-the-blank.  RUN. YOUR. RACE.  You’re not running anybody else’s race.

We all have stories we tell ourselves that can be toxic, that can be destructive.  I’m not good enough.  I’ll never add up.  We tell ourselves these stories all the time.  The question becomes what do we do about that?  Two things.   Martyn Lloyd Jones, in his sermons on spiritual depression, talks about this.  It’s phenomenal!  I’d never seen it this way before, but here’s how he phrases it.  We’ve got to start talking to ourselves instead of listening to ourselves.  That voice goes on in your head—you’re a failure, you’re never going to add up, everybody’s always going to hate you, you’re always going to be lonely, always…never….always….never..blah..blah..blah—we’ve got to learn to talk to ourselves instead of listening to ourselves.  He points to Psalm 42 —  Why are you downcast, oh my soul?   What’s the psalmist doing?  He’s preaching to himself!  I hope that this is not the only preaching you hear all week.  I hope you learn how to preach to yourself!  You’re loved by God.  You are called by Him.  You’re made holy. You are set apart in the heavenlies, blessed with every spiritual blessing….   You need to learn how to preach to yourself a little bit.

Here’s the other thing.  We’ve got to learn how to start thinking about what we’re thinking about.  That may seem twisted, but I’d say to you that it’s biblical!  Romans 8:5-6.  This is all over the Scriptures, but I’m going to choose just a few verses to point this out.  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, {There’s the toxic narrative.  Where does it lead? Death.}  but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.    That’s why the Apostle Paul will say in Romans 12:2 — ….but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   So let’s not be so encapsulated in cliché-driven Christianity that we affirm these verses or maybe even memorize these verses but don’t PRACTICE these verses.

There’s a huge trend towards mindfulness, in our culture, in our day and time today.  To that I say Amen.  It’s biblical.  They’re just picking up on what the Scriptures have always been telling us, but we’ve just been really terrible at actually practicing.  Think about what you’re thinking about.  Maybe you go, well, Paulson, how do I do that?  Let me give you four things you can do.  These are an adaptation from Dr. Caroline Leaf, who’s a cognitive neuroscientist.  Through research, she found that it is possible to retrain your brain. Brain health іѕ today’s hottest health topic. Whіlе research gives uѕ mоrе аnd mоrе answers аbоut whаt wе саn dо tо safeguard оur brain health аnd significantly lower оur risk fоr diseases ѕuсh аѕ Alzheimer’s, thе average person hаѕ little idea whаt exactly thеу саn dо. Oftеn I аm asked whаt wе саn dо tо boost everyday memory аnd protect оur long-term brain health. You can look here for more about the brain health. It’s possible.  It’s not easy!  It’s possible.  So here’s what you might start to do.  You might start, for just a few minutes every day, thinking about what you’re thinking about.  Then write it down.  Assume no one is going to find this journal, though.  Maybe hide it.  You should be honest enough that it would be embarrassing if anybody did find it.  Don’t filter.  Don’t think, oh, I shouldn’t think that, so you don’t write it down.  If you’re thinking it, write it down.  Write down the toxic narrative.  Get it out in the open, because when it starts to get into the light, it begins to lose its power.  Then, read what you wrote.  You may go, “Well, I’m a little bit of a mess,” and I should find a counselor.  Or, I’m in big trouble.  That’s what you might find out.  Then Dr. Caroline Leaf says to choose one small step….towards health, towards healing.  On your way in, you were handed a bookmark.  This was intended to be a tool for you to use to remind you of who you are in Christ.  I’m accepted.  I’m secure.  I’m significant.   You may go, Ryan, this is positive thinking.  What I want to tell you is this is biblical thinking.  If biblical thinking happens to be positive, count me in!  Right? Why would we think we should be delivered a toxic narrative by a God who loves us and has put his image inside each one of us?  THAT’S twisted!  Part of untangling our insides and de-circuiting that narrative that plays is replacing it with truth.  Lean in for a second or write this down —- If the Enemy’s greatest weapon is LIES, your greatest defense is TRUTH!  When you start to believe those toxic narratives, you’ve got to go no, no, no, the God of the universe who created me; who wove me together in my mother’s womb; who loves me, who rejoices over me with singing; my name is engraved on the palm of his hands; has come to my rescue in the person and work of Jesus; has given himself on the cross; buried my sin, walked out with new life, given it to me; and I am holy, precious and loved in his sight!  Preach to yourself!!

That’s not all, because we’re holistic beings, remember?  It’s not just the thoughts that we think and the stories that we tell.  Verse 5.  Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

So there’s the stories we tell in our mind.  There’s our physical bodies and then look at what happens here.  Verse 3 — Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there….  Why would you leave a guy….you’re in the depths and this person has been by your side.  He’s been there.  He’s seen God move.  He’s seen God work.  He’s lifted your arms up.  Elijah leaves his servant there.  See what’s going on?  Not only is he telling himself a story, not only is he physically depleted, but relationally he’s starting to say, “I’m not letting anybody close to me.”  When we start to get into these toxic thought patterns, one of the first things we do is we believe the lie we can’t tell anybody how dark it is and how difficult it is and how painful it is.  If people really knew they wouldn’t want to be around me anyway, so it’s safer to just send them away, even if they care about us and even if they love us.

Elijah gets to this point and he says to God, “I’m the only one left.”  Which isn’t true, but he feels like it’s true.  I’m the only one left.  We’re wired for love, but what we often learn is fear and we start to create distance where God designed us to walk in intimacy.  {Slide reads:  The distance we create —> (Relationally)}  There’s this interesting juxtaposition — At the beginning of Elijah’s life, he’s led by God into the wilderness for solitude and strengthening.  When Elijah’s operating in fear and on the run and telling himself stories, he runs into the wilderness to get isolation.  Solitude and isolation are two very different things.  Solitude’s actually designed for intimacy with God where we can be led back into relationship with others.  Isolation is running in fear, because we believe that we’ll actually be known.  Please notice, when the enemy comes to attack Eve, the very first think he does is makes sure that she is alone.  Coincidence?  No.

All of this contributes to our mental health — the stories we tell, the bodies we live in, and the distance that we often create.  {Look up at me for a second.}  If you’re here today and you’re lonely, I want to tell you you’re not alone.  You are deeply and dearly loved here.  If this is your first time at South…..way to pick a great Sunday to come.  I just want you to know, we have big arms here we would love to wrap around you.  We have small groups, we’d love to help you get plugged in.  Mentors we’d love to connect you with.  Friends we’d love to help you find.  You may feel lonely, but you are dearly loved…..by us and by the God of the universe.  Please, do not believe the enemy’s lie that isolation is the way to get what you want, it’s actually the exact opposite.

I love the fact that I get the chance to be in community with a church that’s full of people who are really brave.  This is a difficult subject—depression, suicidal ideation.  Ellen Rosenberger, who’s one of our Daily writers, has written two books and is Luke Rosenberger’s wife—he helps run our Young Adult ministry.  She was vulnerable enough to share her story and her battle with depression.  I think her story will be an encouragement to you.

{Video plays.}  I struggled with depression.  Here I am at a Christian school, overseas, teaching, so how can a Christian teacher be depressed and be pouring into students everyday when she’s really struggling internally?  My name is Ellen Rosenberger and I’ve been at South for a little over two years now.  I’ve grown up in the church.  My parents were missionaries; I grew up as a missionary kid in Bolivia.  Good Christian.  Went to a Christian university.  I really had this concept, well, I really just need to pray more.  I need to read my Bible more.  I need to figure this out.  I tried those things and it almost backfired, because it caused more anxiety and more depression and more guilt, that I wasn’t doing well and I was stuck in depression and I didn’t want anyone to know about it.  All of those internal dialogues of….you have to be a certain way, you have to live up to a standard in this Christian community, this Christian world, to measure up and to be accepted by others.  And actually, more importantly, accepted by God and loved by God and seen by Him.  I think all of those compounded my depression and made it almost impossible.  It felt, at the time, impossible to get out of.  I never, ever thought of suicide before that moment, and when I did, it scared me.  So many different components helped me through it.  Through people showing me that God saw every tiny, tiny detail of my life, down to the moment where I had to call a friend and say, “I just need you to tell me right now that God loves me and He sees me.”  They were the ones to take me and have me meet with a doctor.  I had never, growing up in the mission field, heard of anyone taking medication.  My friends kind of coached me through that and said, “Hey, it’s okay.  We’ve done all these other measures.”  That was what my body needed at the time.  It wasn’t just through praying harder or studying the Bible harder, it was through physical things—sleep, exercise, feeding my body.  I learned that there’s nowhere, no place, no place too dark that I could go that God’s Spirit, His presence would not be.  He met me in my depression and He gave me resources and tools to get out of it.  It was….now I see you in your darkest moment and I still want to be with you.  Those friends modeled that to me, that that was what they were able to do, because that’s what Jesus does for us.  Once I got through that first depressive episode, I was so grateful, overjoyed, praising God for the victory He’d given me and all the many lessons I learned.  I was depression-free for four years.  We’re pregnant with our first child; I heard about ‘baby blues,’ but I didn’t think about it until I had it.  I experienced depression in a whole new way.  Got post-partum depression two more times.  My husband would tirelessly tell me truth, pray truth over me, but not leave it there.  He would also go on runs with me.  He would make sure we were eating right and getting enough sleep.  I’m very thankful; not everyone has that opportunity and support system to help them through a depressive episode.  It reminded me we can’t just sit and bank on previous victories to get us through life.  I see Christians as real people, not how I grew up thinking we have to be a certain standard.  The physical body does matter.  Our spiritual lives, our physical lives and it’s not just get better at our spiritual walk and we’ll get out of this depression.  A lot of it is physical. {Aaron: How would you advise someone who is in that season right now?}  It does not have to end in pain or in the end of your life.  There is hope.  There is light.  There is joy.  There’s freedom.  There’s life and there’s life abundant, because Jesus is the giver of life and He wants so much for us….for our minds, for our bodies.  There’s so many lies that I have been trapped in before and have been liberated of.  It takes hard work.  It takes community.  It takes some basic steps, but it’s possible.  That’s what I think.  Someone needs to hear in that moment, “God, sees you. Other people see you.”  There’s life to be had.  It doesn’t have to end in tragedy or pain.  I’ve been there.  I’ve felt like this is never, ever going to get better, but it’s not true.  It does.  And it can.  {End of video}

Change is possible, but it’s not easy.  I love the way that Ellen put that.  It may not be fast, but it’s possible.  In closing, if you’re wondering, “What do I do with this?” I want to encourage you to pursue awareness…what’s going on in your head.  Use that easy four-step process.  What’s going on?  Get it out.  Ask Jesus to speak into it….He will.  If you’re not okay today, I want to encourage you….maybe this is the day, maybe this is the hundredth day, but tell somebody.  This is a safe place to not be okay.  I want to encourage you, when we get stuff out into the light, it starts to get malleable, it starts to get weaker.  Even the thoughts and the lies we believe start to get pliable as they get into the light.  Tell somebody.  Our prayer team’s going to be up here after the service.  Our elders.  We would love to pray over you, because we believe that Jesus wants to speak into this area of our lives too.  Speaking up might be reaching out this week to say, “I need to get into counseling” or “I might need to start going to Celebrate Recovery.”  Speak upMake a plan. It may be imperfect; it WILL be imperfect.  That’s okay.  You can change it.  But make one.  Maybe it’s you start exercising.  You reach out for counseling.  We’ve some resources in the back.  You just reach out to a friend.  Maybe it’s one step to not being isolated anymore.  You aren’t ready for full-on community, but maybe you’re ready for coffee or texting somebody you care about and love.  Finally, I just want to encourage you, as your pastor, to believe what the Scriptures say about you.  {Believe God}  God sees you.  His eye is on the sparrow.  Certainly it’s on you, single mom, who’s beating yourself up because you feel like you’re not good enough.  That person where you walked through abuse and you walked through hell at an early age and that keeps coming up.  I just want you to know that God sees you, that He loves you, that He cares for you, that He’s for you.  For the person that feels like that cloud just never seems to get any lighter or it’s just so dark and all-encompassing, I just want you to know He cares for you.  He says to Elijah, listen, the journey’s too much for you (1 Kings 19:7), we got more in front than what lies behind, so, Elijah, I’m going to fill into you because I’ve got a future for you.  He does for you too.  I’d encourage you, if you’re anything like me, maybe you just stick this little bookmark in your Bible to remember all the stuff God says about you.  It’s true and it’s your greatest defense against the lie of the enemy that would love to destroy your soul.

I don’t know where all this hits you.  We live in a community that’s been hit by this subject.  Or maybe it’s something you wrestle with personally.  Jesus wants to speak into it.  Lord, we ask that you would.  That you’d speak to us, even as we sing this song, is there one line, one phrase that you just want to drive home for us to hear this morning?  Speak, we pray.  In Jesus’s name.  Amen.