Category Archives: Depression

Lucernarium

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

We gather all to meet the night,

And sing of Christ Who bore our sin;

With warm hearts we, in lantern’s light,

Amongst our blood-bought baptized kin,

Now hear our Father’s Word anew,

And are invited in to pray.

We stand beneath the fading hue,

Awaiting here the longed-for Day –

That morn which marks the darkness’ end!

O come, our King, make sorrow flee,

And comfort us, our Dearest Friend!

Until Your Dawn our own eyes see,

Let us endure this night in Thee.

Let us endure this night in Thee.

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The title of this poem, “Lucernarium”, is essentially an old word for Vespers, the evening office when the lamps were lighted and the brothers gathered to pray and hear God’s Word. The inspiration for this poem is a wonderful lady who has just gone to be with the Lord. My dear sister Bertha was a great encouragement to me, and I wish I had been able to know her longer; she loved poetry – a favorite topic of conversation between us – but much more, she loved her Lord. I spoke to her a couple of days before she died, and she told me that she was looking forward to stepping out of the night and into God’s glorious morning. I praise the Lord for her faith and witness!

Sojourn: A Brief Meditation

The world is quiet around me. And yet it’s not. The bright white of the falling snow, the underlying ice that has frozen the earth, the occasional sing-song chatter of hungry birds, the icy crying wind, and the passing of those who will not be deterred by the winter’s stormy countenance – I see, feel, hear all of these. And yet, there’s something quiet about a snowy day. It is as though, under its milky blanket the earth silently and eagerly awaits the thaw. It may be a cliché that has long been played out, but it is one we do well to remember: winter is awaiting its end, and even in its stillness it presses on to the spring, when the pure white will give way to brilliant greens and the multitudinous colors of God’s gardens, just as light shone through a prism reveals itself to be more than what we first saw. I am an exile, a sojourner to a home I’ve never yet seen, to a spring that will not end. This home is promised to me, the city of wholeness and peace, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-27); I wait, and at the very same time, I press on. I wait… for the Lord must come again and consummate His kingdom. I press on… “I journey to find the place where I will be resurrected,” as the missionary disciples of Columba said. I am a knight of heaven, a son of the King, in this world and in the next. This winter will end; it will not always be this way. In “this world with demons filled” (Luther), we are the church militant, the church sojourning; but the Son will come, and with this winter past, we shall be the church victorious, the church at rest at last. Let us wait for His salvation; let us press on to know Him, to do the works He has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10), and one day to see Him with our own resurrected eyes.

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:12-25

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:13-16

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62:1

“Toil passes, and rest will come; but rest only through toil. The ship passes, and you arrive at home; but home only by means of the ship. We are sailing the high seas, after all, if we take account of the surges and storms of this world. The reason, I am convinced, that we are not drowned is that we are being carried on the wood of the cross.” Augustine, Sermones ad populum, sermon 104.

Prayer: O Lord, God of sojourners, Who brought His ancient people from slavery in Egypt through the wilderness and to the Promised Land, and have in Christ vouchsafed to bring Your church unto Yourself in the New Jerusalem, protect us as we journey on, and strengthen our waiting faith that the homeland we behold with the eyes of faith now will be the homeland we see in joy with our resurrected eyes when Christ returns to judge the world. We ask in the name of Him Who bore the winter that He might bring His people to the everlasting spring, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.

The Storm: A Brief Meditation

The past year has been a difficult time for most of us; and the beginning of this year has already proven to be likewise tumultuous in a number of ways. This ongoing storm with all its accoutrements – isolation/loneliness, fear, restlessness, financial stress, etc. – is deeply impacting the mental health of a growing number of the population; particularly, a rise in depression and suicidal thoughts among younger people and children is alarming. A report from the CDC in the autumn of 2020 stated that, when polled, 1 in 4 young adults had said that they had suicidal thoughts within the past thirty days. Why is this? What is it about these storms in our lives that deprive us of all hope that things can ever be right again? Is it the length of the troubles that seem to go on and on, piling one on top of another that make us think that it would be better to have no life at all than to continue living like this? Is it the fear that things will never get better, a fear that the future will be just as dark as the present? Is it the loss of loved ones who seemingly made life worth living? I would wager that some or all of these things come into play. Each person’s feelings are their own, because they are the ones who are living through their situations and circumstances.

As a theologian, it would be easy at this point to give you a long list of reasons why it is wrong to commit suicide, and to argue those reasons out. I could tell you that your life is not your own – that you belong to God Who made you. I could remind you that you shall not murder – not even yourself! As true as these things are, I don’t think they’re going to keep you alive. I’ve been in dark places before. I haven’t been in your dark place; that is all your own. But what is not your own is the experience of the storms of life. I’ve traversed, by God’s grace, many storms, and will likely face many more before all the clouds part unto an everlasting day. What has kept me alive? What keeps me even now moving forward to do the work God has given me to do, to live the life He has given me to live? Despite all the storms of life, despite all my loneliness, all my sorrow, all those I’ve lost and yet love, all the fearsome flashes of lightning and crashing of thunder, I keep moving forward because Jesus is with me. When it has seemed I was all alone, He was there. When it seemed all was lost and nothing would ever be right again, He comforted me and bade me look to Him Who suffered as He did and was raised from the dead. He Who was resurrected and has ascended will one day come again and set all things right, and even in this storm, He is remaking me. When my faith is small, it yet clings to Him Who clings to me in love. As long as He is my strength, as long as He holds my hand and carries me, I can and will endure, and I will praise the One Who has the power to calm the storm or bring me through it.

Dear heart, I don’t know what you’re going through, how you have been and are being tossed by the storms in your own life, but I do know this – life is not something to throw away because the storm doesn’t seem to end. It’s hard, and there are likely many waves left to crest, but if you know my Jesus, then you know He has promised that He will never abandon you. He may calm your storm just over the next wave; He may not. He has all wisdom and knows what is necessary; you don’t. But though you may not know what He is doing through this particular storm, you can know that He loves you and cares for you; He hears you and will strengthen you; all is not lost because He is with you, and He will work even this to your everlasting good and His everlasting glory.

The storm will end. Either He will calm it, or He will bring you to the shores of glory, but the storm will end. Don’t throw yourself into the waves; throw yourself into the arms of the One Who loves you and gave Himself for you. Trust Him, and trust that He upholds you even now with His love-wounded hands.

I’m not a therapist; I’m a pastor. It may be that you need to see a therapist, and you should never be ashamed to seek psychological help, just like you would never be ashamed to go to the ER if you were having a heart attack. You may also consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. If you ever just need to talk to someone, my email is jlwaters@tsm.edu. Email me; I’ll give you my number, and we can talk (or we can even zoom; thanks to our youth, I know what that is now!). But don’t throw your life away; you’re not in this boat alone. Reach out to others and talk about what’s going on. More than this, reach out to the God Who loves you in prayer. Look to Jesus and live! Spend some time meditating on the following passages and slowly and thoughtfully pray the prayer I’ve included at the end.

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?'” Mark 4:35-41

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“‘Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.'” Psalm 91:14-16

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Prayer: O God of all comfort, as You have promised, so be with us in the midst of the storms of this life that come upon us according to Your perfect will, helping us the while to trust that You mean even this for our ultimate good and renewal. Give us the eyes of faith to see Christ with us in our suffering, and, united to Him, strengthen us that we may endure these tribulations. O Lord our Hope, help us to see beyond the passing and the transient to You Who are eternal; uphold us, we pray, by Your righteous right hand, and comfort us with the knowledge that You will never leave us or forsake us, and this because of the blood of Jesus Christ Your Son our Savior, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.