The Pain of Healing

Satan is evil personified.

However, it wasn’t until after Jordan died that I understood this on a deeper level. Losing a child comprises, in my opinion, the single worst day of a parent’s life. After Jordan died I was in a state of relentless despair. To my surprise (and I shouldn’t have been surprised) satan didn’t stop there. He had more widespread damage in mind. He wanted to “finish the job.” He tormented me psychologically. He heaped shame upon me. He accused me of not trying harder to be a good dad to my son. He would constantly fill my mind with, “If only you had….” Sometimes these attacks left me in a fetal position on the floor crying out.

Then, one day, I learned another biblical truth on a deeper level….

Satan is a sociopathic liar (John 8:44), fighting for his life because “he knows his time is short.” (Rev. 12:12)

Jesus reminded me, “Nick, don’t listen to the devil. He has been devastatingly conquered – and humiliated – by my blood – which was given for you, my child.” (Eph. 2:13-19; Col. 2:13-15; Rom. 8:37) ‘I am…the Truth, Nick’. (John 14:6) I have set your soul free. Let me set your mind free, as well. Regardless of what cheap shots the devil takes, remember that he’s taking those shots en route to eternal torment.” (Rev. 20:10) Endure this pain, Nick – in My strength – not yours. You have complete access to all that I Am (Philippians 4:13). If you’ll let Me, I will take your present hurt and transform it into heavenly power. In your weakness I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)

In his never-ending attempts to sustain our wounds, the devil, as clever & sly as he is, reveals a fatal flaw. His hubris leaves him exposed to TRUTH. When Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore it’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” (Gal. 2:20) he was telling us the entire life-changing, life-saving, painful, powerful process of the cross is now ours. Our wounds were imputed to Jesus Christ that day. His healing was imputed to us. My wound left from Jordan’s death is now Christ’s wound. And we know what God said through Isaiah: “By His wounds we are HEALED.” (Is. 53:5)

So, every time your wounds (emotional, psychological, or physical) are under attack, focus on the Truth, Jesus Christ. Because our wounds now belong to Him. And His wounds heal.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

S.O.S. – A Request for Prayer

Each year, our staff writes letters of congratulations to the year’s high school graduates. As I was searching for resources today, I came across the letter I wrote to my son, Jordan, when he graduated high school in 2011.

This week, as we approach May 13th, has been horrible. The emotional ambushes are crippling. I’ve lost my temper enough at one point to scare myself. But, there are two things that seem to help me:

(1) doing everything I can to focus on truth. In this case, the “greater reality” (heaven;….the fact that Jordan is alive – more alive than I am, and with Jesus)

(2) reaching out to my family and friends by being open & honest, admitting that i, at times, feel like i’m drowning. For some, social media can be a bottomless pit of wasted time. For me, the Lord has used it to remind me, as He reminded Paul in Corinth, “I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:10) Oh, the strength that comes from knowing you’re not alone.

Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

My family (Michelle, Kelsie, Macy & myself) needs you. Please pray for us.

I’m not sure why, but I felt the need to attach the short letter I wrote to Jordan 3 short years ago. Perhaps, it’s just to remember him.

I love you all, Nick

2011 – Letter to JORDAN

Where Was Jesus When My Son Took His Life?

Preparing our church choir Sunday morning (4/13) to sing the classic, “The Day He Wore My Crown,” I read to them a quote from one of my favorite books: John MacArthur’s “God With Us.”

One of the best, most succinct theological descriptions of Jesus’ death I’ve read, I’ve cited it dozens of times throughout my years of Student Ministry, and subsequent Adult Ministry, when teaching on the death of Jesus.

But this time would be different. Miraculously different.

As I was reading the quote to our Choir, I stopped in mid-sentence and tears filled me eyes. My mind was racing. My heart rate increased. I was on holy ground.

Psychologists call suicide-related grief “complicated grief” because of the mountain of questions for which we’ll never have answers, longing to have been there to save him, the guilt, the rage, knowing that your baby (he was 19) was suffering – to the point of death – and you weren’t there. For the first 8 months after Jordan’s death, my mind worked non-stop to try and “undo” that day. I almost went insane. More than once, early on, Michelle (my wife) & I screamed at God, “Where were you that day!!”

Back to this morning, and the quote I read to our Choir. Here it is:

“Think for a moment about how Jesus died. It was not an easy, gentle passing from this world. It was excruciating agony and torture of the worst kind, for it was on a cross. He SUFFERED in His death. He drank the bitter cup at Calvary in its fullness – He drained it to the last drop. He experienced all the PAIN, all the LONELINESS, all the TORMENTS that have ever been associated with death. All of this is behind the statement, “Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The death Christ tasted was the penalty for our sin. He received the full force of all that the devil could throw at Him. But, more than that (far more), He received the full expression of God’s wrath over sin.” John MacArthur, “God With Us”

This morning, as I was reading this to our Choir, when I came to the words that I capitalized – “suffering, pain, loneliness, torment” – it occurred to me those were the exact same feelings that Jordan felt moments before taking his life. Almost simultaneously, it occurred to me that I had my answer to my question: “Where were You!” Jesus said, “I was there, with Jordan. Holding Jordan. IN his suffering, IN his pain, IN his loneliness, and IN his torment. And, because I absorbed ALL of that mess on the cross twenty centuries ago, Jordan is free now. With Me. In Paradise.”

What a morning. All I could think was, “Hallelujah.” As we prayed before filing into the Worship Center, I said, “God, thank You for revealing this to me! Thank You….thank You….”

And, by the way, it wasn’t until I got home after church that I realized the date. It was April 13th – 11 months to the day since Jordan walked into Paradise.

Soli Deo Gloria, nw

Should Christians Ever Struggle With Depression?

“….Darkness is my closest friend.” (Psalm 88:18)

Should Christians ever struggle with depression?

The short answer: Yes. The long answer: Yes.

We see it throughout Scripture: in the words of the Psalmists, the prophets, and the apostle Paul (writer of most of the New Testament.)

“If there is a hell on earth, it is to be found in a depressed heart,” observed Robert Burton in the 1600’s. “Deep depression is embodied emotional suffering,” one expert stated. “Depression is an ache in the soul that crushes your spirit,” stated another.

One person suffering from depression said, “I feel as though I died a few weeks ago and my body hasn’t found out yet.”  Another described it as, “It’s like drowning – except you can see everyone around you breathing.”

Consider the following depression-driven quote: “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would be [but] one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall be better I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.” Those are the words of a 32 year old Abraham Lincoln.

So, what does it mean if you’re a Christian and you struggle with depression? It means you’re absolutely normal. 🙂

Obviously, there are varying degrees of depression ranging from the common “blues,” to clinical depression, requiring medication. But, most, if not all, will at some time in their life, struggle with some form of depression. Make no mistake – mankind asked for this “enemy” when we, in essence, told God to shove off and leave us alone in Eden.

The bad news: God let us have our way (which has been a disaster). The good news: He didn’t leave us alone (think: Jesus Christ.)

So, as with any other emotional enemy, God not only is able to hold us up in the midst of it – He’s actually able to use it in our lives for His glory. That’s never anything but amazing to me.

Joseph told his very brothers, who sold him into Egyptian slavery (they originally wanted to murder him), “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. (Genesis 50:20, nlt) Those words spoken by Joseph thousands of years ago are as true today as they were when Joseph said them. Nothing can stop Almighty God from using this fallen world (in which we’re stuck for the moment) for His purposes & glory.

Below is an outstanding blog by Tom Rainer about how God uses depression in the life of ministers. The principles apply, though, even if you’re not in vocational ministry.

NOTE: If you struggle with depression get help immediately.

“The Lord Is My Shepherd” – An In-Depth Study of Psalm 23 (Session 1, Vs 1)

psalm 23 2

My friends, rather than upload a recording of my talk, I thought I’d simply write out my notes in an easy-to-read format for you. (This way, you also don’t have to hear me, over and over again, become emotional as I speak 🙂 …..Christ has used this passage so powerfully in my life since the passing of my beloved son.)

May you get to know the Shepherd more intimately in your study. And, after studying and meditating upon this great psalm, may we all gain a stronger, broader understanding of what it really means when we say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Simply click on the link for the PDF file.

Psalm 23 – Session 1 – Intro & Verse 1

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

“True North”

“The grief following suicide is so raw and real, primal and human, even people of faith must often battle just to ride it out, to render it livable….How one grieves depends on what one believes….The counsel of Scripture secures us with a stabilizing beam of truth – beginning with a single word: hope….Your pain cannot dig anywhere His Word cannot go.” (Frank Page, from his book, “Melissa,” about his daughter who took her own life.)

Because of Christ Jesus, not even death itself – regardless of what manner in which it visits our home – can separate us from the conquering love of Almighty God! (Romans 8:38-39)

When you find your world upside down, and yourself kicked in the gut.  When you’ve lost your way.  And the enemy is spouting lies in rapid-fire succession.  Remember – Jesus loves you.  And His Word is our “true north.”  Always.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”(Romans 15:13 NIV)

The Unwanted Journey

Through a mutual friend, Southern Baptist Executive Committee President, Frank Page, learned of Jordan’s recent suicide.

Page’s daughter, Melissa, took her life, as well.

Last year, Frank published a book entitled simply, “Melissa.” He sent me a copy with a sweet note.

From his introduction: “I’m not over Melissa’s death. I admit that. I’ll never be over it. That twenty-seventh day of November changed everything. The earth shifted under my feet. The fog rolled in and wouldn’t lift. Accomplishing the simplest daily activities suddenly required dogged effort and resolve. But I can say this: I am on my way through it, and I am still in one piece. And the ‘peace of God, which surpasses every thought’ – I’m here to tell you it really can ‘guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,’ (Philippians 4:6-7), just the way the Bible says. If I didn’t know it before, I certainly know it now.”

Page addresses his readers who’ve been where he’s been as “fellow travelers on this unwanted journey.” I praise Christ for bearing this burden for me, Page, and all others who’ve been forced to endure this “unwanted journey.” As Page writes, “I am on my way through it, and I’m still in one piece.”