You Will “Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death” If You Follow The Instruction Book

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;” Psalms 23:4

Psalms 23 is short, but very powerful in it’s promises. I know these promises are true. Because I’ve lived them. I have tested many of God’s promises throughout my life. But, believe me I didn’t plan on testing God’s patience and love for me. Sometimes it just happened that way.

Fortunately though, my right choices have outweighed my bad ones along life’s way. But, I have walked through the “valley of the shadow of death,” perhaps more than I want to confess to.

Let’s take an in-depth look at Psalm 23 and learn how to apply these truths to our own lives. This is where the “rubber meets the road” in any Bible study. And in doing so I will share a little about my story.

You might not be familiar with the Bible. The Psalms are about right in the middle of the Bible. Most are beautifully phrased praises to God. Some hold promises and insight into letting us know of God’s direct involvement in our lives. A few Psalms are prophetic in announcing the Savior’s coming.

Okay, now I want to jump right in to Psalms 23. Verses 1-3 are all about what God is doing on our behalf when we seek after Him.

Verse 1 tells us that God is like a Shepard to us.  A Shepard will lay down his life for his sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Verse 2 tells us that God provides us with our needs in plentiful ways. And promises to give us rest.

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

Verse 3 states that God restores us and guides us. Restoring has two parts to it. First we receive then we give.

The first part is where God restores us as individuals when we cry out to Him in our desperation:

“Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old,” Lamentations 5:21.

The second part is when we continue the work of restoration that God has done in our lives:

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness;” Galatians 6:1

Verse three goes on to our letting God guide us throughout our daily lives.

Verse four is a turning point in this well loved Psalms. The new believer has gone through the exhilarating stages of a fresh or renewed walk with Christ. Now we’re being told that we will experience trials and our faith will be tested. Dark clouds are going to bring some storms of trouble into our lives. But there is an important promise within the warning. Let’s take a look at what it is:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalms 23:4

God will not let fear overcome us if we abide in Him. And He will send us comfort during our times of fear, anxiety, stress, disappointments, and any other attacks by Satan.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4

Why I Wrote About Psalms 23

The “valley of death” can also be translated as the “valley of darkness.”  Depression is darkness. And sometimes it can lead to a loved one not making it through the “valley of the shadow of death” only to commit suicide midway through that valley.

I’ve made it my mission to tell others my story of how I’ve overcome depression in hope that it will prevent someone from doing something drastic.

In 2007 I was going through a bout of depression. I’d struggle with depression on and off for most of my life. And I’ve talked with therapists many times before this so I knew that it was time for me to get back into counseling. I checked into an out-patient mental health facility here in my hometown. In the interview process I was diagnosed with dysthymic depression by one of the Peer Support Specialists that worked there.

Having that diagnoses was the beginning of my freedom from depression. First because I was finally correctly diagnosed. Having a correct diagnoses helped me to know why many of my days had dark clouds in them, and having that knowledge put me on a path to healing.

Of course my life isn’t perfect now, but I am happier and can deal with stress and disappointment more wisely because I have mental health tools that keep me from reacting negatively when bad things happen or are spoken to me; or because of a short sighted decision I’ve made.

During my time at the facility I went through ten months of group counseling that overlapped three months of individual peer counseling I received as well. After that I took a long break from receiving counseling. I felt fine and had made the changes that I knew I needed to make.

In early part of 2017 I  began gradually becoming intensely stressed. By early Spring my daughter, Esther encouraged me to go back to counseling. It’s odd that she sensed it first, because Esther lives on the West Coast and her dad and I live in Western North Carolina. Our oldest daughter Ruth lives about 30 miles from us and our middle daughter Rachel lives in Eastern North Carolina. But, “Es” has always been intuitive. And it paid off for me to listen to her.

That Spring I began receiving Cognitive Behavior Therapy counseling by a trained therapist. We decided I needed to come in on a weekly basis. The cost was minimal because I chose a therapist that was “in network.”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is sometimes called “talk therapy.” It’s usually a one-on-one session. But sometimes a spouse or other family members can join the sessions.

Later my husband, Jeff joined me for these sessions. Sometimes we went weekly and sometimes we went bi-monthly. The therapist suggested at the beginning that he take a prescription for his anxieties. That has helped so much in our flow of couple communication. And we are still going to our therapist.

For some reason I always thought family members just had to live with having an anxious family member in the home. Too many med’s were addictive, so we didn’t look into him taking any. And Jeff not taking an anti-anxiety prescription created a lot of unneeded stress when our girls were in their teen years.

But in recent years medications for anxieties has been produced that are not habit forming.  And that’s the type Jeff takes now. I’m proud of him for admitting he needed both counseling, and medication in order to keep his anxieties in check. And we are still going to counseling at least a few times a month.

The rest of this Psalms speak of God’s presence in our lives. And that he is continually working on our behalf.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You [have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalms 23: 5,6.

Verse five describes being in God’s will is like enjoying a banquet while our enemies can only look on. Unless they know God and seek His guidance than they can’t enjoy His banqueting table.

It’s really up to us believers to go find the “lost” and invite them in to also enjoy being in the presence of God. This, I believe, is our anointing and our calling.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19, 20.

Verse six brings this beautiful sermon to a close with God’s assurance that we, as individuals, are loved by our heavenly Father. And that we also are to be known by our loving kindness.

Too many in the church have confused condemnation with conviction. It’s difficult to bring someone to Christ by condemning them. We bring people to Christ by our loving kindness. Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Throughout my childhood and adult years I’ve put up with the condemning words of others. So, I know what I’m talking about here.

I’ll let the Apostle John have the last words on this subject:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17

*All Bible quotes are from the New American Standard Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You Depressed?

Sometimes depression sneaks up on us. It slips in the unguarded back door of our psyche like a thief. Depression seeks to rob us of having good stable mental health. Don’t fight this enemy on your own. Seek professional help if you are struggling with depression.

How do you know if you’re struggling with depression? To an observant close family member or friend the answer seems self-evident. But the sufferer is often the last one to recognize or admit that she or he is struggling with depression.

My realization that I was struggling with dysthymic depression came about by my going to a community mental health clinic (mhc) in my small town. I was assigned a peer specialist.

My Peer Specialist had worked as “floor staff” in mental health institutions for more than twenty years. Through our weekly talks he had pin-pointed the type of depression I’ve had since my teen years. Even though he was limited to what type of therapy he could offer, he still recognized what I was experiencing, and gave it a name. And him doing that was the “key” that opened the door for me to receive the right kind of mental-emotional wellness therapy.

He suggested I attend some of the group therapy programs that the mhc offered. That sounded good to me so I started with WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). From there I went on to attend their other classes. My going there lasted about ten months. That was in 2007-2008. I felt great and had made several changes that I needed to make that came out of the one-on-one I was receiving and the weekly group therapy as well.

I’ve since gone back to therapy. Currently I’m seeing a licensed therapist. She uses Cognitive Therapy techniques, which have been very effective for me.

There are different types of depression, though. These are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). That’s the “Bible” for finding out about personality disorders. This is a thick reference book that gets updated when new research information becomes available. Most of us don’t own a DSM-5, but any reputable website on mood disorders would reference this book along with experts in the field of cognitive development.

The DSM-5 does list depression as a mood disorder. The different types of depression are: Major, dysthymia (melancholy) depression, dysphoric (which includes PMS), and Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). These are the most common ones, at least.

If you think you might be suffering from long term sadness, then get a thorough checkup by your physician. Include a blood test. That test will reveal if you are low in Vitamin D or other essential vitamins. Also, a blood test will reveal any health problem or blood related diseases such as Hepatitis C. Fortunately, most of my adult life I’ve had a yearly physical.

Let your doctor know that you’re struggling with “dark moods.”  He or she might suggest a certain medication, such as an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake) to help lift your moods. There are multiple new ones available to help people overcome depression that are less or not addictive than the old meds.

I’ve found that “Talk Therapy”  (Cognitive Therapy) is best for me. So, I’ve been able to avoid taking medication for depression. But I do take certain supplements every day that help lift my moods. I’ll discuss supplements later. I’ll only say that supplements can get expensive. And you’ve got to know which ones work best for you. By all means, start by talking with your primary care physician.

Please consider going to a Behavioral Health Center like I did. They offer mental health counseling that includes the family if needed. Ask to see the therapist on staff there. Let him/her know that you’re feeling depressed even if it’s just some of the time.

The cost of going to these Mental Health Centers (aka: MHC) is often free. They have group counseling classes that are designed to inform and guide you into making wise choices. Also, like me, you’ll get to have a “peer support specialists” that will talk one-on-one with you.

If you need to detox from illegal drugs or over medicating then most of these mental health counseling centers are connected to a detox unit. If you can’t control your intake of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis, then please check into a detox unit. Most problems are fixable. It just takes you being a part of your solution, not a part of the problem.

Finally, be honest with yourself. Have you had thoughts about self-harm and/or had suicidal inclinations?

If you’re feeling suicidal or need to talk to someone immediately, then please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Don’t put your loved ones through the agony of you making a tragic decision.

There are often reasonable and successful solutions to our emotional health problems. It just takes us seeking those solutions in the right places.