I just stepped off of a plane from a week of ministry in the Czech Republic. I find the effects of working overseas exhilarating, and a shot of life into my soul after such an intense past six months. I was one of three teaching pastors who went to host a camp for the teenage kids of missionaries all over Europe and northern Asia.
In preparing for my sermons/talks there, I kept having problems getting one of them to come together. I mean, I had it outlined...but every time I tried to finish it, it never felt quite right. I have no idea how many times I tried to re-write it. I had a sense that the Lord wanted me to share my story with this group. Needless to say, I was pretty reluctant to do so. So far, I have shared my story with individuals, and through this blog, but that's it. I am generally a fairly private person when it comes to personal matters...and laying it all out there in front of a group of 100+ people did not sound exciting at all. After prayer, and some counsel by a good friend...I decided to share about the past 6 years of my life, and about the struggles of the past six months since being diagnosed with depression/anxiety.
During the second night of my teaching, I began with some Bible study, and then spring boarded into my story. I was terrified of rejection and criticism...which proved to be unfounded, and directly from the enemy. My prayer had been that it would not be about me in any way, but that my experiences would somehow be an encouragement to someone there. As I shared, I saw a range of different emotions in the eyes of those listening. Some were distant, some were understanding, and there were tears in the eyes of some. It was obvious that I was not alone in my experiences. My fears had been for naught.
I was absolutely amazed at how many people came to talk with me after the service was over. For the next 2 days, I talked with countless teenagers and adults who were struggling with these same types of feelings. Many had never talked to anyone about it, and were so relieved to share with someone. I pray for these young men and women, as depression is an unrelenting foe. May God comfort their souls and bring healing about.
Of course, I had one approach me that wasn't completely enthralled with my personal story (I kind of expected some of that), but ended up thanking me for sharing, as some of the teens in their small group opened up that night about their own struggles with depression. I'll take criticism any day, especially if the end result is a good one!
I am not sharing this with you all so that I can get some type of credit or "glory." I am sharing this so that maybe some of you out there will be encouraged to share your story with others. It is very therapeutic to share, even in blog form.
No, I do not have all the answers... I still struggle daily. My heart is so burdened for these teenagers overseas. Every time I go to work with them, I feel like I leave a part of me behind when I return home. However, I know that God has us in Texas for a reason. We are part of an amazing church, and have a wonderful group of teenagers right here. I've just been imagining ways to make our youth ministry a world-wide ministry from right here in Austin... Waiting for God to unveil His plan is the hardest part! I'm feeling rather "radioactive," as the song talks about... sometimes I feel like I could explode, but that energy continues to propel me... Praying for clarity and understanding as we move forward!