Christian Workshop Introduction: Under the Juniper Tree

Under the Juniper Tree
“Even Christians Get Depressed”
by Christian fiction author, Shelia E. Lipsey

This is a three part Christian workshop discussing what causes depression and how to manage depression. There are several stories within the workshop sections that may apply to you or someone you know. The goal here is to acknowledge the fact that depression can come into anyone's life, even a dedicated Christian. Please read the three sections and let's discuss the material in each section. If you are dealing with depression, let's talk about it as a community. If you have questions or would like more information, please leave your responses in the comment section below.

Part One and Part Two are also included here. Please take part in all three sessions.


Introduction
Do Christians get depressed? Think about this question for a moment. Ponder over it before you answer.

If we are grounded and rooted in God and our faith, how then can we say that we become depressed? Isn’t that what having faith is all about – believing and hoping in that which we cannot see? Isn’t that why Jesus is our Savior, our Lord, our Father, our everything? Doesn’t his word say if we abide in Him and he abides in us then we can ask anything and it will be done? Doesn’t he tell us to cast our cares upon him? Or what about the passage of scripture that says, ‘He doesn’t put anymore on us than we can bear?’

If I believe God’s word is true, then why are there times when I feel down and out, troubled, like there is no hope and no where to turn? Why do I cry, moan and groan, as if there is no tomorrow and no one who cares? Why do I close myself off from loved ones, family and friends and seek shelter in the confines of my room? Why do I feel isolated and alone, like no one understands what I am going through and how I feel? The answer I give to you is what I have come to call “under the juniper tree.” In other words, I am going through a period of depression. There, I said it – depression. I said it again. Maybe it’s taboo to some believers, but God is not a good of condemnation. He has made us in his own image, that’s true, but God also placed us in bodies of imperfection, that because of Adam and Eve’s sinful nature, must be subjected to various groaning and ailments – including depression. (Leave your thoughts on these questions below and let's talk about it.)


Biblical scholars, theologians, Christians, religious folks and non-religious folks alike, have varying opinions when it comes to Christians and depression. I am particularly interested in this subject because I am a Christian who has battled depression most of my life, starting when I was a young child. Being saved at the age of eight did not give me a ticket to bypass the road of depression. Yet, I know beyond a shadow of doubt within my heart, spirit and soul, that I am a child of God.


I often refer to a story in the Bible that some of you may have heard or read about it. It’s the story of Elijah, a prophet of God. Elijah was a strong man who feared God. In 1 Kings Chapter 18, God had commanded Elijah to prophesy to Ahab that it would not rain until he said it would. Ahab, an Israelite King, married Jezebel, a princess from Zidon. Zidon was known for its paganistic, witchcraft and idolatry. Evil was rampant. Jezebel, like the inhabitants of Zidon was an evil, wicked woman, and quite devious which is why the marriage between Ahab and Jezebel was forbidden by the Lord.


Much like Adam who was persuaded to eat of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, Ahab was persuaded by his wife, Jezebel to introduce the idol god, Baal, and he went so far as to build worship centers for his people to worship Baal. No longer were they able to worship the one true God. Enters the prophet Elijah. Ahab had 450 prophets who were going to compete against Elijah in a contest to see whose God was the true God.


The prophets and Elijah each built an altar and prepared a sacrifice. However, even though it was customary to light the altar, this time things would be different. The contest called for the prophets of Baal to pray to Baal, and Elijah to pray to the Lord. Whichever god responded by setting his sacrifice afire would be judged the true God, and the god losing the contest would be abandoned.


The prophets of Baal went first. They places piles of wood on their altar and prepared their sacrifice. Afterward, they prayed to their god, Baal to light the fire of the altar. They prayed and chanted, screamed and hollered, prayed and prayed from morning to evening without any fire coming forth from Baal. When it was determined that Baal was not going to light the altar that the 450 prophets of Ahab had constructed, Elijah stepped forward.


Elijah’s altar was not extravagant like the altar built for Baal. It was simply built and Elijah prepared his sacrifice. Elijah went so far as to douse his pile of wood with water that was it overflowed into a ditch. At this time, water was a precious commodity because of the lack of rain, so imagine the amazement of everyone who witnessed Elijah’s act.

Unlike the 450 prophets, Elijah did not weep and wail, scream and shout, and have a fit when he prayed. Instead, Elijah simply asked the Lord to reveal himself and show that He was the one true God. Immediately, a fierce bolt hit Elijah’s altar and the sacrifice, the altar and the water was consumed!

Everyone who had gathered to witness the contest between the prophets and Elijah were in awe at what had taken place. Elijah, after the Lord revealed himself in the flames, ordered the 450 prophets to be executed.


I imagine that Ahab hurried home to his wife. He told Jezebel everything that had occurred. Being full of evil, she was so full of rage and hatred that she turned around and ordered that Elijah be killed. Elijah was truly a man of God. He followed God’s commandments without hesitation. He believed in God and in all that the Lord told him. Yet, like so many of us, Elijah seemed to have forgotten all about God when he heard that Jezebel planned on killing him. Instead of standing boldly before her, without worry or fret, Elijah took off. He became fearful and depressed.


We, as Christians, often do the same thing. No matter how good God is to us, no matter how many trials and tribulations he bring us through, no matter how many tough times and tragic events he delivers us from, when trouble hit, we began to worry, become fearful and many of us, like Elijah and myself, enter into a deep depression. We began to have a ‘woe is me’ party. We can’t sleep, we can’t eat. We can barely work. We don’t want to talk or associate with co-workers, friends, families or loved ones. Some of us even think about and/or commit suicide because we believe there is no other way out.
(Readers, do you agree or disagree? Tell us below)


Keep in mind, God had previously commanded Elijah to tell Ahab that there was not going to be any rain until Elijah said so, and there wasn’t. Without rain, there would be very little food because it took rain to make food grow. Elijah had nothing to worry about even in famine and without rain because God had birds of the sky to supply him with food and water. He also had a widow woman to give him a helping hand. You see, God does take care of His own. God does provide for His own. God looks after His own. Then Elijah won the contest between Baal and the Lord. God was ever present in Elijah’s life.


God is ever present in our lives too. He is our father and He will not allow any weapon formed against his children to prosper. He tells us in His word not to worry or fret about what we will eat, or drink or wear. He supplies the birds of the sky with food, so surely he loves us more than the birds in the sky and he will provide for our needs too. Yet, just like Elijah we tend to forget when we are hit with an onslaught or just one thing that we say ‘breaks the camels back.’ And depression sets in. Continue the workshop by visit parts 1 and 2 and leaving your comments and questions at each section. We hope to help each other deal with this issue. Next read the section that continues this message, part 1 here.



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Novelist, Shelia E. Lipsey,is a native Memphian. She attended Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi, graduating magna cum laude with a BBA degree. Lipsey, a published author, professional copyeditor and inspirational speaker has been actively writing and speaking most of her life. Lipsey has written several short stories and over 200 poems which she has plans of publishing in the near future. Her novels with Urban Books are entitled, Into Each Life (Jan. ’07), Sinsatiable (Aug.’07). Lipsey’s third novel, My Son’s Wife will be released October 1, 2008.
Visit her website today for more details and to read excerpts: http://www.shelialipsey.com/


Among Lipsey’s list of literary accomplishments and affiliations, she was awarded Conversations Book Club 2008 Author of the Year (thebestbookclub.info), Dallas Morning News Bestselling Author ’07, Urban Knowledge Memphis Bestselling Author ‘07; Founding president Memphis African American Writers Group (MAAW), president Urban Christian's UC His Glory Book Club (uchisglorybookclub.net)


Shelia is also the founder of 1st Annual Living Your Dreams Literary Arts Seminar (livingyourdreamsnow.net); founder of The Word According to Shelia Newsletter; Publishing & a contributing writer for Victorious Voice Magazine (www.victoriousvoice.com) online member of Black Writers Christian Network (bwchristian@yahoogroups.com), Booknibbler_Christian, Black, Copy Editor (http://www.shelialipsey.com/).


Lipsey is also acontributing blogger for Sankofa Literary Society(sankofaliterarysociety.org), guest columnist at Blogginginblack.com, as well as several other online literary groups.



Part One and Part Two are also included here. Please take part in all three sessions.


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