Depression, Worship, and Liturgy

This past week I participated in a Twitter dialog with several people regarding: #abuse, #depression, #trauma, #mentalhealth. I so appreciated the other people who endured one or more of the situations, and who shared their insights, questions, concerns, and especially their care for one another.

I commented that I had to step away because the discussion was becoming a trigger for me regarding depression. Another commented that maybe a better word to use is reflection. As I thought about (reflected) that, I see a distinction between the two: trigger is not something I can control. It happens, there is a reaction. Reflection is something I can do to think about what happened.

Today as I was reflecting on that and the triggers, I also thought about how as a Christian, is there something long term that can help put all of the experiences (the trauma as well as the triggers afterward) into perspective? So I will try to explain what has been my life and at times my only consolation.

The Liturgical Life

For me, I have spent my entire 69 years (except one year) within a (Lutheran) liturgical church environment. Thus, while my parents didn’t worship, they made sure us boys were there or our grandparents took us. I had all three liturgies memorized before I started school (Divine service, Matins, and Vespers). When I dated my future wife, she belonged to a church within same church body. It has been part of our relationship for 51 years.

Some might see a problem commenting that it becomes “just routine,” no thinking or engagement necessary. For me, that has never been an issue. In fact, just the opposite. Regardless of the year, circumstances, challenges, devastation, the constancy of the liturgy was a welcome relief. The liturgy invites me to speak and sing with others; it became a way to be part of something that was not affected by my personal challenges. 

In the worst times, I would be there, not speaking or singing, but I was part of a group expressing and sharing (speaking and singing) the Christian faith in the fullness and breadth of life itself. To be in their presence was reassuring, comforting. Eventually I could join in again. Not because someone demanded it, but because the invitation throughout was a call to me to be part of the church, the broken, messy, church. And at that time I was really broken, messy.

The Christian and Lament

When I was recovering from my complete breakdown I had friends who encouraged me to go to a contemporary worship service, to “cheer me up.” They said that the liturgy and hymns were too “dry, stale, even depressing.” I attended a few months, but in reality, the “cheer me up music” lasted only a day or so. I went back to a liturgical service. And I was at home.

I realized that the hymnal provided the liturgical framework and the hymns that addressed all aspects of the Christian life. Yes, days of rejoicing (Easter!!), but it also encompassed days of repentance (Ash Wednesday) and days of mourning. 

Here is one example of a hymn that reached to the very depths of what I was experiencing.

“Lord Jesus, Think on Me”

by Synesius of Cyrene, c. 375-430
Translated by Allen W. Chatfield, 1808-1896

1. Lord Jesus, think on me And purge away my sin;
From earth-born passions set me free And make me pure within.

2. Lord Jesus, think on me With many a care opprest;
Let me Thy loving servant be And taste Thy promised rest.

3. Lord Jesus, think on me Amid the battle’s strife;
In all my pain and misery Be Thou my Health and Life.

4. Lord Jesus, think on me Nor let me go astray;
Through darkness and perplexity Point Thou the heavenly way.

5. Lord Jesus, think on me When floods the tempest high;
When on doth rush the enemy, O Savior, be Thou nigh!

6. Lord Jesus, think on me That, when the flood is past,
I may the eternal brightness see And share Thy joy at last.

7. Lord Jesus, think on me That I may sing above
To Father, Spirit, and to Thee The strains of praise and love.

Notice how the hymn writer from the early 5th century captured what I was enduring in the 21st century. This is not a musty, soon to be forgotten “happy song” but a deeply reverent, powerful, and encouraging hymn for the broken. 

Even the melody reinforces this. Here is a beautiful a cappella (shortened) version: 

https://youtu.be/NqQ1IPOIZwA

I have more to write about the relationship between depression, etc. and worship. This at least gives you a sense of how I appreciate the sometimes somber, sometimes, heavy sense of life and how worship expresses that for me.

Our prayers continue
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Prayers for Survivors — Part 8

As time passes, it is easy for many of us to think that the effects of abuse have disappeared. But we are reminded that each day these women face new challenges, grow beyond where they had been. But their pain is real, the consequences significant. This is a small reminder that not one is forgotten.

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Heavenly Father, You know the challenges and attacks that each of these people have faced. Reassure them of Your presence in Jesus Christ. Grant them strength, wisdom, and insight on how best to proceed, especially in the coming days. Refresh, restore, and renew them according to Your mercy in Jesus Christ. May they continue to be a voice for the broken, the forgotten, the voiceless. Protect their hearts when attacked, and sustain them with Your Word. 

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Day 108 Lauren Michalak #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Yourname. You invite us to pray for those in need. Today we pray for Lauren & her many needs. Altho we don’t know them You do. May You strengthen, comfort her, & guide her & her family. IJN Amen

Day 109 Vanasia Bradley #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Loving God, we bring Vanasia before Your throne of mercy. In the midst of her coping/healing grant her strength, courage, and focus. Bless her & her family w/love in all her needs. Give wisdom to those helping & loving her. IJN Amen

Day 110 Breanne Rata #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may Your blessings rest upon Breanne today. Surround her w/people who can support, love, and guide her. Give her wisdom as she moves forward. Strengthen her to meet all challenges w/grace and compassion. IJN Amen

Day 111 Erin McCann #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Look w/favor on Erin. You have given her voice to speak about & against abuse. Heal & protect her. Help her family stand strong w/her. May they all know love, compassion, & joy. Whatever her hurts, bring wholeness. IJN Amen

Day 112 Catherine Hannum #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, today Catherine needs Your love and reassurance. Strengthen, comfort, & encourage her. Raise up people to speak words of hope. We pray for her family as well, and their many needs, for wisdom, & strength. IJN Amen

Day 113 Victim 170 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we turn to You in behalf of Victim 170. You know her needs, hurts, concerns, challenges. You can more than meet them because of Your great love. Surround her w/people of love and compassion. Bless her family as they walk w/her. IJN Amen

Day 114 Jessica Chedler Rodriquez #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Loving God, may You bless, comfort, & heal Jessica. While time passes some issues remain. Bring this to closure for her. Give her family strength, compassion, & encouragement. Whatever he needs may You more than meet them. IJN Amen

Day 115 Victim 138 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious Lord, look with favor upon Victim 138. Whatever her needs & her family’s needs, may You more than meet them. Protect her from further attacks, and from indifference by others. Heal, strengthen, & comfort her & her family. IJN Amen

Day 116 Morgan Margraves #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we approach Your throne of mercy in behalf of Morgan. Grant her comfort, healing, strength. Enable her to grow in knowledge thru all that she has endured. Raise up people to love, encourage, & protect her. IJN Amen

Day 117 Victim 127 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, our hearts are touched by the needs, hopes, fears, and joys of Victim 127. Grant her full healing, live in peace, and strive for that which is good. Encourage, comfort, sustain her by raising up people to walk alongside her. IJN Amen

Day 118 Victim 142 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we trust that You have Victim 142 in Your loving care. All that she has been thru, You have seen, & You raise up people to care for & love. Continue to heal her. Grant her strength, confidence, & passion as she speaks & lives forward. IJN Amen

Day 119 Victim 162 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, our hearts ache for this victim of sexual abuse. Altho unnamed, she is known to You. Grant a special measure of Your mercy, compassion, & love. Bring people alongside her to help, encourage, & comfort her. IJN Amen

Day 120 Victim 186 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious God, our hearts ache with the abuse that so many have endured. May You continue to bless Victim 186 in the healing process. On the difficult days give her strength, comfort, & encouragement. Raise up people to walk w/her. IJN Amen

Day 121 Victim 185 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may You bless Victim 185 in all ways necessary. When she is weak, be her strength; when hurting, be her healer; when discouraged, be her encouragement; when needing a friend, may she know You are a perfect friend. IJN Amen

Day 122 Victim 73 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, pray for Victim 73. Where there are hurts bring healing. When comfort is needed equip people to do so. Most importantly bring the good news of Jesus Christ, who took all sins upon Himself & gives life, hope, & love. IJN Amen

Day 123 Victim 165 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we bring another unnamed, but well known person to You for all Your help in her life. Whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual may You more than satisfy them. Grant her strength, wisdom, compassion, & joy in life. IJN Amen

Our prayers continue
Psalm for the broken but not destroyed

Abuse, Christians, and…

Many want to deny, hide their heads, or walk away when the topic of abuse arises. But such silence only gives abuse an open door. I wrote about this four years ago on this blog. It might be best to read that post first:

especially-for-men-in-the-church

Thankfully some have begun to bring light to the dark recesses of abuse. Consider

Natalie Greenfield

Danni Moss

And there are more.

Lisa on this issue

My good friend, Lisa Cooper, tweeted these statements about abuse this morning on Twitter. They are so pertinent to the Christian Church. Here are Lisa’s own words about this:

Because of this whole #FreeKesha thing (which I have been tweeting about in brief this morning), I feel the need to make a few comments:

1) There are SO MANY MORE women who have been abused than you will ever hear or know about. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

2) For all of us involved in the church, this is a REAL thing that we need to talk about, and a real ministry opportunity.

3) Caring about our neighbor means helping them through abuse, rape, and all of the other horrible sins that have been committed against them.

4) This is not a conservative/liberal issue. Because I care about my neighbor, I care if they have been sinned against. This is so important!

5) When talking about purity prior to marriage, tread lightly because ¼ women have been sexually abused. Most cases aren’t reported. This does not make them “damaged goods” or “unworthy of marriage.”

6) As people who represent Christ, we should be at the forefront offering support to those who have been abused, not the ones questioning.

Watch for more from Lisa and Angela in a podcast in the near future.

What Does This Mean?

For the church in general, let’s be aware of this significant problem confronting the Church. There are many hurting people in our midst and in our community. They need love, help, and hope. Ultimately that is what Jesus offers to all of us. As the Gospel has been proclaimed and taught here, some came to me to explain what they thought would be a critical move in caring for the abused. They didn’t need my permission, but I was delighted and supported their ideas.

Our congregation  located not far from a well traveled interstate. Those who had approached me wanted to do something that they saw was lacking. They made laminated signs with emergency numbers for abuse victims. They took them to every business to post in the women’s restrooms. All but one place allowed them to post. The women who worked at many places were so appreciative, some in tears. We were addressing something that no one wanted to hear or see, but many on the other side welcomed this as one sign that someone cared. And our members have become not only sensitive to this issue, they have provided ministry to victims.

Pastors and seminarians: let’s not let silence and ignorance about abuse become our mode of operating. Any abuse does not reflect the Christian faith. Become aware of all that is involved. Lovingly and patiently minister and care for those abused, for their families and friends. Let the Church be a community of refuge and love.

Paul provides some great encouragement for the Church.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. (2 Cor. 1:3-7 NAS)

Notice that: 10 times the word “comfort” is used. We are not “comfortable Christians.”

We are comforted Christians who comfort others with the comfort we receive from Christ.