Depression is overwhelming and makes us feel hopeless. Listen as Joni describes how she overcame depression in her own life.
Hi, this is Joni Eareckson Tada. Just what is your first response to hardship?
Well, I know my first response isn’t the best. When a big disappointment happens—an untimely cold or a problem with my wheelchair or some new ache or pain, my first response often is to collapse, like, “Oh no, not another thing to deal with! Is it never going to let up?”
That’s why the book of Philippians is such a big encouragement to me. It was Paul's first letter from prison to the church at Philippi, and think about it: there Paul was in jail. And you have to know it wasn’t pleasant. The guy was in chains … he wasn’t young anymore … his close friends weren’t nearby to help, but he had to write the church in Philippi to let them know how he was doing.
Obviously, the Philippians were anxious to hear how things were going with Paul. Now realistically, he could have started off his letter a little like this: “Dear Guys in Philippi, I'm so glad you're praying because I really, really need it. The prison guards are mean, my chains are chafing, the grub is lousy, the nights are freezing, my bed is hard, I can't sleep, and the other inmates are a bunch of bullies. This place is no picnic! Please, I need you to pray." That's how some people might have responded, but not Paul. He was not about to drag the Philippians down with a long list of complaints, because listen to what he writes. This is what he says in the beginning of his letter:
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now ... Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel [isn’t that great]. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” (Philippians 1:2-5, 12-13)
What a letter. What a testimony! Rather than tick off a list of complaints so that they might know the real story of all the real hardships he was going through, Paul’s desire was to lift up the church and to assure them the Gospel was going forth.
Paul’s focus in good times and bad was always the going-forth of the Good News about Jesus. What an example! He tells us, in fact in Acts 20:24, that this is his life goal, he says:
"... I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." (Acts 20:24)
You know, it’s true that I often jot that verse, Acts 20:24, under my signature when I’ve got a pen in my mouth and I autograph one of my books for someone. It’s not just that it’s a favorite verse … it’s just the way I want to be. That’s the way I’d like to approach life. I pray earnestly that my first response in trials might not be to always collapse in discouragement … no, I want my first response to be, “Yes, Lord, what is it you want me to learn here in this problem … How can I trust you better in this … Allow me to glorify you by the way I handle this heartache.”
And, friend, I’m inviting you to join me today. Throughout this day, think of how your circumstances and encounters with others serve really to advance the Good News of Jesus. Let that inspire you to respond like Paul did with those Philippians. May God help us both not to complain about our hardships but to see them as opportunities—opportunities to share the Gospel. Thank you for doing that, and thank you for joining me in this journey to be like our Savior. Look me up today would you at joniandfriendsradio.org and tell me how you’re doing on the journey, okay? Until next time, this is Joni for “Joni and Friends.”
© Joni and Friends. Previously aired as Program #7112 on 08/04/09.
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