So pants my soul…

IMG_5308.JPG

Image Source

As the deer pants for water,

so pants my soul for…

My soul pants. Tired, exhausted, emotional

Always emotional.

So pants my soul; it pants for restoration.

It pants for the not yet to become the already;

for both feet to be in eternity

It pants for freedom from flesh; for freedom from the adversary to freedom

It pants for truth; inwardly and outward.

It pants.

It so pants for justice; it pants for life

It pants for evil; It pants for treachery and adultery; It pants for rebellion and wickedness

It pants for salvation and incarceration; for redemption and chains;

Forgive it Father for it knows not what it pants for, and yet still it pants.

Against Your will,  Your green pastures and still water, Your streams and bread of life

It pants.

Out of breath, it pants; thirsty and tired, it pants.

Hope waning, vision blurred, hearing fading, belief leaving;

It pants.

It pants for beauty and wonder; for excitement and exhilaration;

It pants.

Where is your God? God is here; Hope in God

Drink of Him, while He may yet be found

It pants for strength to wait upon the Lord; It pants for renewal

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

O my soul, how it pants

It pants.

It pants.

#YouGoodBro and Brotherhood in the Church


  Image source

If you’ve been following pop culture recently then you are probably aware of Kid Cudi’s recent confession. In a facebook post, the rapper admitted to suffering from depression and mental trauma that has continuously plagued him and stated that he decided to check himself into rehab to receive the treatment he needs. This public display of vulnerability was met with an outpouring of love and support, especially from the black male community, a culture not always known for, but not without examples of, transparency and vulnerability. This response birthed the hashtag #YouGoodBro, a question posed to start a needed conversation about being honest about where we really are.

The church, sadly, is a place where men have been able to avoid honest and meaningful communication. Sunday morning services are filled with people who greet each other with questions like “Hey, how are you?”, disguised as an introduction into the other person’s ups and downs of the past week, but really only asked with an expectation of the normal church answer “Fine, how are you?”. “I’m good, thanks!”. And although this isn’t a male-only problem, I believe the burden to be vulnerable is culturally difficult for men to bear. Culture has taught us that men don’t cry, show emotion, or talk about their inner problems. Complain about your boss, the ball and chain at home, your sports team not making the playoffs, sure. But discuss how all those make you feel? Not a chance. This is not new narrative either. It’s one believed by our fathers and passed down to each us of, dressed up as normal with an expectation of conformity. The interesting thing about the narrative culture tell us is that it goes against the created intrinsic make-up of our very humanity. We are all born with emotions and the capacity to feel. We are not an impenetrable entity, unscathed by the raucous emotional shrapnel of life. We are mortal and our souls can be pierced. And we need to talk about it.

Jesus is the perfect example of vulnerability in the church and in brotherhood. His disciples were a rag-tag group of nobodies selected to be witnesses to the gospel come in flesh, namely Jesus. Being front row and center to the manifestation of the Good News meant not only seeing Jesus’ Godhood but also his manhood. They saw Jesus tired and exhausted; they saw him hungry; they saw him in the garden of Gethsemane, troubled and anxious. Listen to The Gospel of Mark’s account of Jesus and His disciples in the Garden:

“And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭14:32-34‬ ‭

Jesus did not hide his pain from His brothers. Jesus was fully God, but He was also man. He didn’t just let them see Him transfigured on the Mount, in all His glory; He also let them see His agony and pain. This Jesus who would be their slain lamb, to take away their sins and restore them to the Father, did not hide his trouble and sorrow with a shallow “I’m fine, how are you?”. No, He let them in. He asked them to sit with Him while He prayed. He told them specifically of the trouble in His soul and the magnitude of its effect. Jesus understood the need for honesty in community because He has been in honest community with the Father and Spirit from eternity to eternity. And Him coming to make disciples restored back to the Father meant reminding and showing them what community looks like. This is one aspect of true honest community: the ability to be broken and sorrowful before our brothers as they comfort us. Romans 12:15 tells us to mourn with those who mourn. Men of God, how will your brothers mourn with you if you do not tell them you are mourning? How can we follow Proverbs 27:17 and sharpen each other if we do not know your blade is dull? Vulnerability and transparency are characteristics of those being sanctified like Christ. We are becoming like Him when we allow the spirit of God to work in us in this way.

I’m not asking that we tell any and everyone our deepest and darkest secrets and problems. Wisdom and discernment are key with every decision. But, as men in the church we must fight back against the shameful culture of repressing our emotions and carrying a facade of “put-togetherness”. Like #YouGoodBro, we need to be honest about where we are. It’s scary, it’s hard, it’s risky, but it’s needed; and it’s worth it.

So, I ask you a simple question: you good, bro?

Remind your soul with Psalm 42

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Psalm 42:5

Have you ever felt these words? Not simply acknowledging some inner lack of coalescence but greatly feeling the shrapnel from the war waging in your innermost parts? I know I have. I know what it’s like to feel like a casualty of a war you didn’t know you were fighting, to tend the wounds of an inner crisis that seems endless. Music only distracts, hobbies help escape, but lasting relief is far and distant. If you happen to be reading this, then you must know what I’m referring to. Living in a post-Fall Genesis 3 world means reckoning with the brokenness all humanity inherited as their cursed birthright. These moments can be paralyzing. You know the truth; you know the verses, sermons and podcast episodes that speak directly to what you’re feeling but for some reason your theological muscles seem to have atrophied unbeknownst to you. Depression, anxiety, stress are all words that color your existence.

Reality, like this post, is a dark place sometimes. Because all of us, if we are honest, have felt some semblance of the above described experience. Some experience it more deeply than others, some with more frequency, but everyone knows what it feels like to be down-and-out. So what do you do in those moments when the heaviness of life seems too stubborn to lift? You remind your soul.What exactly to you remind your soul of? You remind it who your God is, what He’s done and what He has promised to do. Psalm 42 is a beautiful example of how to do just that.

  1. Recognize your need for God

The first line in Psalm 42 has been called a beautiful verse, showing the author’s longing for God:

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” vs. 1

While indeed a beautifully poetic line, this verse, I believe written out of desperation, is perfect for showing the depth of need we have for God. Listen to the context found in the following verses:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come an appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?‘” vs. 2-3

The author thirsts for God and chooses word imagery that is correlated with nourishment and necessity. We need water; whether we want to drink it or not, it’s necessary for our survival! Our thirst for it remains until quenched. In that same mind, the author needs God for his survival. He longs for Him. He wonders why He doesn’t answer and why He has been relegated to drink insufficiently of his tears. Those near him mock his waiting on God. And yet his understanding of His need does not waver, for he knows the relief of his soul depends on his understanding of dependency on God

2. Tell your soul what is true

This is important. Living in a world given to the influence of the enemy, we are constantly being taught information as if it were true. And subconsciously our soul may begin to believe the things we are told. This is the reason why it’s important to speak truth to yourself because regardless your “self” is constantly being told that something is true. We must preach the Word, God’s Word, to ourselves.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are  you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God“. vs.5 , 6

It’s almost as if you can feel the author plead with his soul to believe. Sometimes (most times) what your soul needs is a quick “come to Jesus” moment, literally. For Jesus is the way, the Truth and the Life. He is what we behold in our times of trouble for He knows trouble and is well acquainted with it. What we tell ourselves and set our minds on determines how we weather the storm. Romans 8 tells us that a mind that is set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Philippians 4:8 gives a wonderful list of things to ponder at all times, one of those being whatever is true. In dark times, light is scarce to come by. This is why the truth must be preached to ourselves even more in those times. It may not completely lift the darkness, but His Word is always a light unto our path (Psa. 119:105) as we walk in faith towards Him. If your soul can’t believe it, help it walk towards to the One who can help it.

3. Remind your soul what God has done

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon from the Mount Mizar” vs. 6

Notice what the author does immediately after again stating the status of his soul: He recalls specific events where the Lord has been faithful. Whether he was present himself or heard through others about it, the author recalls two specific events where the Lord answered His children. If you have been given saving faith in Jesus through His Spirit, then you already have at least one HUGE event to call upon. God finding you in your sin and still calling you into His family is the greatest act your soul will ever know this side of Heaven. It has been redeemed by Creator God and transferred from the domain of darkness and a sure place in Hell, to the kingdom of light and an inheritance including dwelling with the fullness of God for eternity. And as if this were not enough, God continues to bless us with Himself in tangible ways even while here on earth. He has healed us of sickness. He has sustained us through hard times. He has provided where provision was scarce. He has reconciled lost relationships. All the promises of God find their yes in Christ Jesus. Meaning everything God has promised us we see come to fruition with the coming, dying, and resurrecting of Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). He has given us His Son, what else would He not provide us? Remind your soul that even in the darkness He has promised to save it and keep it from falling.

Psalm 42 is a raw and honest look into what war with our souls looks like. Yes there is heaviness, sadness, and often tears. But there is a way to fight in the darkness. When the oppression of reality  invades your home, be prepared to remind it who your God is.