Testimony: Caleb Stephen

Mental health is an uncomfortable topic. It feels especially taboo in Christian circles. But truth is millions of Christ-loving people of all ages worldwide suffer from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

I’ve fought depression for the last five years, worked with individuals suffering mental illness on the streets, saved people from the brink of suicide and have witnessed the colossal impact suicide has on family, friends and the broader community.

If you suffer from mental illness, know you’re not alone. It’s okay to not be okay—mental illness isn’t your fault and there is hope and healing for you.

Not only have I experienced depression myself, but I’ve seen it on the streets. I volunteer in the emergency services, risking my life to save others. I’ve seen, heard and smelt a lot of crazy, confronting stuff that thankfully many never have to deal with. But it’s being vulnerable about my own personal mental battles that scared me the most.

So why am I speaking up now? Well, being vulnerable is what it takes to break the stigma. It’s not weak to say, ‘I’m not ok, I need help.’ But it’s not easy either—it takes humility and raw courage.

By being brave and speaking up, we enable others to share their story—which I believe is a crucial part of finding healing. Just knowing that you’re not alone is so empowering.

Throughout my fight with mental illness, all I wanted was understanding and validity. I didn’t want pity, only hope. Mental illness in today’s world isn’t treated like a physical injury is. If you break your leg you’ll be smothered with love and support. But when you open up about the demons you fight daily often there’s silence.

For five long years I bottled up my emotions and faked happiness. I’d pretend life was perfect. But nobody knew how many tears I cried or how many nights were spent sleepless, washed out by suicidal thoughts. I was raised in an awesome Christian home and had fantastic parents, but absolutely nothing could have possibly fireproofed me against the horrors of mental illness.

My first of many suicide attempts was in 2013. I struggled with feelings of utter desperation, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

I planned my death and drafted suicide notes. I’d stand on train platforms and wish I was on the tracks instead. During a holiday to the Australian outback, I was found by cops after walking off into the sandy red desert desperately hoping to perish. I honestly just wanted to die, to be permanently free from the relentless pain and anguish.

Depression doesn’t come from God. It’s not His fault and as tempting as it may be, don’t blame Him for it.

I was heavily obsessed with guns and got approval to undertake firearms training and apply for a licence. But I just couldn’t do it—I knew I’d be tempted to take my own life. Things were that bad.

I went off the rails and made some stupid mistakes that I still regret. I was on a search for love and acceptance; trying to fill a deep, empty void in my heart—but I ended up creating even deeper heartbreak for myself.

In early 2018, I tried to take my own life and wound up in a hospital mental health ward. But here’s the good part—God found me in the middle of this mess and brought me close to Himself.

Through the recovery process, I have experienced unmerited love, grace and favour from Jesus. He has given my life a sense of meaning and purpose and given me hope for the future.

Depression doesn’t come from God. It’s not His fault and as tempting as it may be, don’t blame Him for it. Even when you can’t see or feel God’s presence, He has promised to walk by your side through the darkness. And when God promises something, He stays true to it! He loved us so much that He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins and rise again so that we might be free. This means we can be victorious in our daily struggles!

Everybody wants to try and fix depression. But fact is you can’t actually fix it—there’s no simple solutions. This doesn’t mean you should let it define you, rather embrace it as part of life’s journey. Allow God to change you.

I’m stronger than ever because of what God has allowed me to go through. I‘m more empathetic and able to reach others drowning in pain. For those things, I am forever grateful.

Life is short, tomorrow is not guaranteed. The pain on this earth is temporary but God’s everlasting hope is forever. So learn to live in the now. Enjoy today and appreciate the little things. There IS hope for tomorrow. I have seen God’s blessings come through ashes and healing through tears.

It’s only in the darkest of times and the deepest depths of despair that God really holds us close to Himself. It’s then we can truly begin to appreciate His relentless love for us.

One thing that helps me is meditating on the comforting words of 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV: ‘But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’

If today you feel like giving up, remember you’re not alone. You’re so very loved and there is help, healing and hope for you, because of Jesus.

Say Yes To God

 

‘Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”’ Isaiah 6:8 NKJV

William Carey is referred to as ‘the father of modern missions’. But the number of his accomplishments in India was almost equalled by the number of obstacles he overcame just to get there. He was told by a group of ministers, ‘If God wants to save the heathen, young man, He will do it without your help or ours.’

Carey was not a career missionary. He was a young Englishman in poor health with a pregnant wife and small children. He was just like the rest of us—trying to make ends meet and keep life together. But he had something else, a burning question he could not escape: ‘Who will reach the lost in India, if I don’t go?’ Looking back later, Carey realised that the challenges he overcame at home were what qualified him to succeed in his God-given assignment abroad.

The same thing happened to Isaiah the prophet: ‘I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people.”’ (Isaiah 6:8–9 NKJV)

But before Isaiah was qualified to go, he needed a life-changing encounter with God. ‘Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged.”’ (Isaiah 6:6–7 NKJV) Do you sense God preparing you and getting ready to send you?

If so, say yes.

SoulFood: 2 Cor 11:16–13:14, Lk 2:21–33, Ps 8, Prov 16: 8–11

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2019

Today’s Readings

2 Corinthians 11:16–13:14 ()

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16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses—though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. 13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Luke 2:21–33 ()

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21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29   “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30   for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32   a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.

Psalm 8 ()

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To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

8:1   O LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
  You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
  you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.
  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
  what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?
  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
  all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
  the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
  O LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Proverbs 16:8–11 ()

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  Better is a little with righteousness
    than great revenues with injustice.
  The heart of man plans his way,
    but the LORD establishes his steps.
10   An oracle is on the lips of a king;
    his mouth does not sin in judgment.
11   A just balance and scales are the LORD's;
    all the weights in the bag are his work.

Tue 26 June, 2018


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