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When Suicide Gets Too Close

I have a friend that told me they think of killing themselves almost everyday.

Does that freak you out? It freaked me out the first time they said it. It was years ago and as you might imagine, we had some MAJOR conversations about it. The person went on with their life. I have asked them how they were doing in that area on multiple occasions since then and they said the thought continues to enter their mind. “I’m not gonna do it,”, they said, “because it wouldn’t solve anything. But I still think about it often.”

“I still think about it often.”

In the last year we have seen multiple people take their lives locally – four in just the last three weeks. I hate it when suicide gets so close to our family and is rampant in our community. It breaks my heart to know that people are hurting that badly. I can only imagine the pain it leaves their loved ones.

I also believe that suicide breaks the heart of God.

This Sunday, for Week Two of our “Overwhelmed” series, we are going to look very deeply at depression and the desire to end it all. You might be shocked by how candidly we are going to deal with Suicidal thoughts. I know on a deep level that there are so many people struggling with stress, worry, heaviness of life and depression – my prayer is that the story that you will hear this weekend will restore hope to your life.

If you EVER struggle with depression, DO NOT MISS SUNDAY. If you know someone who struggles with depression, especially those who have dealt with suicidal thought do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get them to Vertical with you. And until then, will you join me in praying that lives will be eternally impacted and changed and that God will free some people from their bondage to the evil grips of depression?

Would You Punk Out?

There’s a story in Mark 4 that perfectly sums up the overwhelmed nature of most of our lives. In the story, Jesus had experienced a full day of teaching the people by the shore of the lake and as the day came to an end he says to his disciples, “Let’s go to the other side.”

Mark 4:36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Now, I have no idea how many times I have read this passage in the last 17 years, though I am sure that it would be dozens and dozens. I have to admit that whenever I would read this passage I would do so with a bit of a smirk towards those disciples. “What is wrong with those guys?!? I mean, JESUS is in the boat!!! 

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Let’s talk about you and I for a moment: It would be really easy to think that if God REALLY cared for us we wouldn’t be in the middle of a “storm” in our life. But you know, storms don’t happen because God doesn’t care – storms happen because they are a part of life. Jesus being asleep doesn’t show us a lack of caring – Jesus being asleep shows us that He did not feel threatened by the storm.

Jesus isn’t threatened by the storms in your life either.

Silly, Scared Disciples.

I said it earlier, I have often read verses like this with a smirk – “silly guys!”, as if they punk’d out. But here’s where I have landed on this story: the disciples weren’t punking out when they woke Jesus up – the disciples did what you and I SHOULD do when they got into trouble: they went TO Jesus and said, “HEY JESUS! We need Your help!!”

And help them He did.

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ”Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, ”Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

If I can encourage you to do one thing with your “overwhelmed” life it’s that: Come, Don’t Run. He should be our first reaction, not the One you go to when nothing else works out.

You Can’t Just “Give it to Jesus!”

Before you pistol-whip me, hear me out… (grin)

Have you ever read a passage of scripture that you have read multiple times (like dozens and dozens) and see something MAJOR in a different way than ever before? It happened to me recently…

I was thinking deeply about Matthew 11:28-30 and how it seems that in times of trouble people often turn everywhere EXCEPT to Jesus. I think what most don’t realize is the depth of the promise that God makes us: If you are tired, stressed, weary or overhelmed, I CAN give you the rest that you need. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

It’s the next section that caused me to pause and listen: 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“I’ve given it all to Him!”

I have said to people in the past, explaining this passage, that Jesus wants to carry your stuff FOR you. But a few months I heard someone make the following statement using this passage as a scriptural prescription/reference: “I’ve given it all to Jesus! If He wants to do something He’s gonna have to do it!” They said it as if the problem was NOT their responsibility anymore – maybe you just had to be there. And it bothered me. Something just didn’t sit right and I had to think long and often (like off and on for months) and here’s where I landed: It’s great that you have surrendered your issue to Jesus – but you still have a responsibility to the situation/calling. Just because we “give it all to Jesus” doesn’t mean we have relinquished our responsibility about the issue.

But here’s what IT DOES mean:

  • He will pull it WITH us!

    Jesus wants to carry it WITH you. In verse 29 Jesus tells us to “take my yoke upon you…”. If you are “country challenged” like me this might not make a lot of since. But Jesus is using the picture of some oxen working together. He is inviting us to yoke up with Him so that He can HELP us to carry the situation. Notice, there are two harnesses in that yoke – one for Jesus, after all, it’s His yoke, and one for you. He will help you, He will even do the heavy pulling since He is stronger than you are. But it’s an invitation to come to Him, not dump ON Him.

  • You can learn from that situation. He invites us to learn while we do the work together. I have not thought a lot about this phrase prior to this recent time of learning. I am convinced that many people remain in overwhelming situations because they have not learned thru the situation. The purpose of learning is so we can pass the test – fail the test, do it again. For some it’s an endless cycle because they refuse to learn.
  • You don’t have to let that situation overwhelm your attitude. He tells us, “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,”. I have found that most people are ILL when they are overwhelmed!!! Amen?!? One of the greatest things we will learn in the overwhelming time is how not to be ill, but instead to be “gentle and humble” in the midst of all we are going through.
  • You will find rest even iN the struggle. You know where this brings us to? Rest. If we will allow Jesus to be a part of the solution, learn how to handle the stress in a humble way it will bring a peace that seems impossible. He never promises to remove us from the struggle but He DOES promise that we can find rest.

He isn’t saying, “give it to me – I’ll carry it”. He’s saying, “Hey, come here – I know that life is HEAVY… this isn’t how I want you to live – come BE with me – I’ll help you carry out and teach you how to live this the RIGHT WAY.”

That good news might not be NEW news to you but it rocked me to my core. Now, to actually live it out…

A Recipe to Survive Monday

This month at Vertical we are talking about how to overcome our “OVERWHELMED” lives. Coming off an exciting Superbowl Sunday and all I thought that maybe there are a few of us who need a little encouragement about actually living out what we learned in yesterday’s message. Remember these 4 words:


Here’s “a recipe” to use those 4 words to change your Monday (and your Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and EVERYDay for the rest of your Life):

  • Begin Your Day with Jesus. Before your feet hit the floor surrender your day to His Lordship (leadership). Acknowledge His presence – ask Him to take control of your mind, your eyes, your mouth, to lead your feet. “I want You all in my life today, Jesus.” Psalm 118:24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
  • Seek Him throughout Your Day. Don’t just start your day with Jesus, seek Him throughout your day through prayer. Stop limiting prayer to a quiet time and something we do before meals. Talk to Him throughout the day – make it a priority. If you aren’t used to put up reminders (sticky notes, electronic appointments on your phone/tablet/computer). Tell Him you want Him to be involved in everything you are doing. Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
  • Come, Don’t Run. We have to learn to come to Jesus when life gets stressful instead of running FROM Him. We will talk more about this tomorrow, but here’s today’s application: when you have a stressful situation today, STOP what you’re doing, and COME to Jesus. Invite Him into the situation. He is in control – will you allow Him to exercise His control FOR you? Matt 11:28 ”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
  • Rest in His Presence. If you will do the above 3 you will be able to rest in His presence throughout your day. Talk to Him (inside of course – you wouldn’t want people to think you’ve lost it or anything!) Rest in the fact that you know that He is with you! Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

“I Already Blew It!”

Good try, devil. You might feel that way, like you already messed it up so you might as well give up. That’s the great thing about God – He will meet you where you are at. So, what’s keeping you from starting right now – this moment:

“Jesus, I want You in my life, in my day, in everything I am and everything I do. In this moment I BEGIN – help me to SEEK You as I go through my day – and when the moments of stress come I want YOU to be my first option, to COME to You. Sometimes I can get overwhelmed with life – Help me to REST in the truth that You are with me. Thank You for the Holy Spirit Who has come to live inside of us – I pray my life will be a good home for You. In Jesus Name I ask this, Amen.”


“Your Phone Broke?”

“Your phone broke?”

That’s what a friend who had been trying to communicate with me the other day said when they saw me. I’m usually pretty easy to contact but I had been having “a day”. Not a bad day, mind you, just “a day”. Have you ever had one of those? Serious conversations, over phone and in person. Multiple opportunities to pour out vision about some of the exciting things I am believing about our future. Pressing business… HEAVY prayers… sermon preparation… phone ringing… texts coming in… Facebook and twitter notifications… “you forgot this!” I never got around to doing “that”.

So when I run into this friend, who was glad to see me, they say with a smile, “Hey man, your phone broke?” I didn’t laugh. I don’t even remember what I said, though I am sure I made some excuse as to why I was so quiet that day.

The next morning I was thinking over the previous day and just broke out laughing about this. It was a funny comment and in the moment I wasn’t feeling it. You know what I realized?


I want you to take a moment and think about all of the people in your life. Do you see it? There is brokenness everywhere! People are overstressed, overworked, overburdened and overwhelmed. How easy is it to get overwhelmed? If I struggle with moments (not to mention occasional seasons) of feeling this way, how does the person who isn’t looking for it deal with being overwhelmed with life?

This is why I am SO EXCITED about the “Overwhelmed” series! I KNOW that I know that I know that people need this. That person you work with, your next door neighbor, your cousin, your teens – The “Overwhelmed” series is going to be applicable to the lives that we live.

I am begging you to look around!

Ask God to give you eyes to see those people and invite them to Vertical this weekend. You just might be used by God to change that person’s life!