Month: December 2015

5 Ways to Fight Depression on the Field (or Anywhere)

I couldn’t take it anymore.  I wanted out – and I wanted out NOW.

I felt certain my problems came from the culture, the weather, the pollution, the bad traffic, the “stupid” people I ran into every day.  So, I wanted off the field, and I wanted to leave yesterday.

It wasn’t true, though.  The problem wasn’t around me, in the culture. The problem was me. I was depressed.

Sadly, it lingered for a couple years.  Over the past few months, the Lord has begun to pull me out of depression’s grip as I fight in the power of the Holy Spirit with these five tactics:

1.) Exercise. If you talk to any doctor, he or she will tell you exercise is critically important to mental health. I’m not a doctor, but I can say that when I sweat, I feel like the bad stuff is just getting out.  I love that feeling, and it’s biologically true.

2.) People. This is for everyone (yeah – I’m talking to you Mr./Ms. Introvert).  Sometimes you need to get a little perspective on what you’re experiencing.  Sometimes you need someone to listen and say, “Whoa dude.  That’s hard.” or “What?  You’re just wrong.”  Or even just pray with you.

As Christians, our lives are designed to be lived in community.  When you go overseas, the community shrinks. A lot.  So what do you do?  Since coming to East Asia, I’ve met weekly with a group of 3-4 guys to pray.  That’s been critical for me.  Skyping old friends has helped too.

Whatever it is, you need people.

3.) Serving. A long-time missionary once told me the best remedy for his depression and melancholy is always “getting outside himself.” He would force himself up and out the door to serve others.

When I’m down, I’ve never felt like doing that.  But once I stepped out and started thinking about someone other than myself, I began to pull out of the self-pity-pit I’d dug myself.  Jesus told us that the ones who give are the blessed ones. (Acts 20:35)

4.) Time-management. You might not think this is all that important, but it was critical for me.  (In fact, I think it’s one big reason I headed downhill in the first place.)

Driven by what I call “the missionary complex”, I wanted to prove my worth to God and man by what I did.  Late nights, early mornings and full schedules fueled by self-reliance and insecurity drove me down.

One huge help has been getting a grip on my schedule.  What’s most important?  What do I value most?  What needs to be in my schedule to be the “best me”?

For me that’s meant scheduling exercise, family worship, time to pray, extended quality time with the Lord, among other things.  But I had to commit to overhauling my schedule, saying “no” to more and intentionally arranging the critical pieces in my schedule.

5.) Prayer. For me, nothing contributes more to depression than self-reliance and self-focus.  And the easiest route to self-focus is not praying.

If I pray – and I mean pray like the Puritans reportedly said “pray until you pray” – I am at my best.  I am hopeful.  I am trusting the Lord.  I feel and know His love for me.

It’s so. stinking. simple.

Yet, for some reason, it so easily gets thrown off the busy boat of my life.  Prayer, informed by God’s Word, is actually the foundational piece to defense against depression.

What about you?  How do you fight depression?  Leave a comment below.  I’ll be sure to respond to every comment.

(For more information, I hope you’ll check out Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones, a classic in thinking Biblically about depression.)

Episode Three: 4 Obstacles to Effective Contextualization

Cross-cultural missionaries are constantly facing challenges. Sometimes it’s because of the missions part, sometimes it’s the cross-culture part, and sometimes it’s both.

In this episode of Life On Mars, we discuss contextualization in concrete terms with a faithful brother who’s immersed himself into the local culture more than anyone else we know. Frank gives us four obstacles he’s faced when entering into the lives and cultures of unreached people, and how he has overcome them.

Click the player below to listen to the episode now! Or click on the picture above to subscribe on iTunes to the podcast.

And let us know what you think by leaving a comment below! We are constantly looking to improve both the blog and the podcast, and we of course love being encouraged too!

When Persecution Hits

“Jesus promised his disciples three things: that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” – GK Chesterton

A teammate encouraged us this morning with this quote just before we held multiple Bible studies with our friends, many from various unreached ethnic groups. We’ve been really good at being in trouble these past few weeks, so it was helpful to remember that this is a promise from Jesus to us.

This country’s government seems to ebb and flow with seasons of openness and crackdowns on Christians, and we’re in the midst of a heavier wave of persecution at the moment.

A few weeks ago, one of the only local house church fellowships out here was shut down by the government, scattering the believers. Following that, the government began systematically searching our team – questioning us about our personal information, whereabouts, and intentions.

There were a few days last week where I woke up thinking, “The chances of today being a typical day and getting thrown out of the country are just about the same.”

In the West, we hear about persecution and sometimes walk away with this image of a Paul-like, even glamourous, view of what it’s like to walk through it. From the little we’re going through right now, I’ll say upfront that it’s simply not as cool as I previously thought.

On the contrary, I’m walking around with weak knees and constantly wondering if I’m being monitored. My best friend from the now-defunct house church has spiraled into depression and borderline suicidal thoughts.

Doesn’t sound as awesome as Acts, right?

Completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble. I consider Acts 4, after Peter and John are dragged before the council in Jerusalem. Their prayer includes a plea for God to “grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” Alongside this prayer for boldness, I also recall Matthew 10:16 where Jesus tells us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” because he’s sent us out as sheep among wolves.

What does it look like to become more serpent-like with our ministry? How do we keep sharing the gospel, but maybe in a different way during this season?

After Stephen’s stoning, the church in Jerusalem scatters, but God continues to bless their gospel proclamation. I confess that I’ve doubted God’s goodness and blessing during seasons of persecution recently. Yet despite my unbelief, we’ve seen some of the most promising fruit in this time than we’ve seen all year. All of a sudden two people have come to know the Lord and several others are very interested!

I can’t help but believe that somehow these things are connected.

In the unreached world, you feel like you’re throwing seeds at a rocky cliff-side, hoping and praying that something will grow someday. It’s quite incredible that God is moving here in this season, and we have great reason to be absurdly happy.

Episode Two: Are You Called Overseas?

In episode two, Life On Mars hosts two special guests to discuss what it looks like to be called to the missions field. We hear much about this idea of “calling”, but we’re often left confused and wondering if we’re really called overseas or not. Our guests discuss their experiences and thought processes as they prepared to come to the missions field.

If you have ever thought about going overseas or want to learn more about what God is doing around the world, this podcast is for you. You can subscribe by searching for “Life on Mars” in the iTunes store or clicking here! If you’re not ready to commit, you can simply listen below.

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