Today’s broken culture leaves many men in a desperate fight for their lives during the holidays. When there’s supposed to be cheer in the air, warmth in our hearts and glad tidings on our lips, unfortunately the holidays also usher in the most dangerous time of the year.
Holidays can bring cherished moments with loved ones, special traditions and memories that last a lifetime. Holidays also bring an opportunity to bring hope to the hurting, love to the loveless and compassion to the lonely.
As we enter the holiday season, keep your eyes and heart open to the fact that many men need help, and need Jesus. Broken families can lead to feelings of shame and guilt. Financial pressures can undo our facades. Failed marriages and relationships can create discomfort and loneliness despite being surrounded by people. Men are like icebergs – you only see the tip. Below the waterlines this Holiday season are some sharks of the season that seek to devour them.
Although depression may occur at any time of the year, the stress and anxiety of the holiday season—from November through Valentine’s Day—may exacerbate a lack of fulfillment. One study showed the most common stressors were feelings of loneliness and "being without a family."
For many people, holidays are a painful reminder of what once was. This is especially true for people who have experienced a significant loss such as the death of a spouse or a break-up.
After spending a decade on the phones counseling depressed, down, and suicidal people I have come to the conclusion that suicide (in some form) is a thought all men have pondered. From “I wish I wasn’t here” to “everybody would be better off without me” to “I want the pain to end”, all men have wanted dramatic relief at some time in their lives. Unfortunately, while more women attempt suicide, it’s men who are more successful taking their own lives. It’s the final step in the plan for destruction, set in motion by our enemy. All too often, the thoughts, circumstances, sadness or brain trauma that lead up to suicide, get suppressed momentarily, only to be resurfaced more effectively.
Hope gets lost. The decision of self-demolition ensues. Yet…There is hope, and there is life. It’s just one call away. And, it comes with a promise. The key word to remember is “yet…”
The Bible, and the entire book of Lamentations, includes many true stories about being in distress. One Lament, in chapter 3 verses 19-20, provides context we can relate to: Feelings of affliction, aimless wandering, bitterness, and a downcast soul. But in verse 21, we find the key word to remember.
- “Yet, this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” — Lamentations 3: 21-26
Spend any time in the book of Psalms, and you will read songs that share a depressing soul only to follow with a surrendering “yet God”-type of acknowledgement. While we wrestle with thoughts of suicide, we have to remember “yet God.”Yet God is with you. Yet God is able. Yet God wants to save you. Yet God promises to answer your call.
It’s like picking up an emergency hotline to God. While the prophet Jonah was in the depth of the sea, inside a fish, he prayed a “yet God”prayer:
- “I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.” — Jonah 2:2
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promises to answer your “yet”call:
- “(God said) Call to Me and I will answer you.” — Jeremiah 33:3
Better yet, God says he will save you when you call on him:
- “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” — Acts 2:21
Still, making that call may seem like an open-ended proposition.
Avoid Toxic Traps
Many men think they are good, morally upright and ethical which makes a relationship with Jesus unnecessary because they are good enough. But being a good man is not a great plan. The world doesn’t need more good men who “go to church”, are morally rooted, and don’t cheat on their wives. More specifically, the world doesn’t need more affiliated Christian men. The world, however, desperately needs activated disciples on Jesus.
Affiliated men will go to church, put on a good attitude at work, and try to be a good person in life. I call these men the “Sleeping Giant”in the church because they may be affiliated with the Christian faith, but they are asleep at the wheel when it comes to an activated Kingdom calling.
Sleeping Giants are everywhere. They are good men without a mission. Good men who shy away from taking steps of faith. Good men living without a greater purpose in life. And good men escaping reality with a secret double life filled with fantasy. Eventually, the trials of life catch up and crack their code, revealing a hairline fracture in their faith that can lead to destruction in their livelihood, family and marriage. And, that’s exactly what our enemy hopes for.
Unfortunately, the Sleeping Giant perceives he’s not needed in the church. He neither sees nor feels significance there, that no investment is necessary, and that greatness is found outside vs. inside the Kingdom to which he belongs.
In the Bible, there’s a story about an affiliated man who sensed something was missing. He asked Jesus in Matthew 19, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” The man had kept all the commandments, but still wondered, “What do I still lack?” Clearly, he felt affiliated but not activated.
No man likes regret.
The problem is that we can easily get caught up in the drive to obtain great things, experiences, power, pleasure, fame, fortune, sex and stature. While there’s nothing wrong with healthy achievement, the pursuit of these things can require massive energy, consume your focus, and kill relationships in the process. In spite of our best intentions we end up holding a big bag of regret to compliment our achievements. Along the way someone or something paid the price for getting what we thought we wanted so bad at the time. Oops.
Don’t despair. The dream hasn’t died it’s just being re-set to eliminate regret and replace it with what you were really after – significance.
All that is needed now is the right focus coupled with the right disciplines to sustain my motivation and move me in the right direction. To this end, consider the following fact and helpful roadmap.
You are made to dream creative visions because you were hardwired by God for more.
Perhaps the best question to ask is: Does your dream(s) correlate with God’s dream for you? To find out, ask yourself these questions and compare your answers with what God thinks.
Is it to become wealthy?
- “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”—Hebrews 13:5
Is your lens focused correctly?
The hit, made-for-Netflix, series “House of Cards”exhibits how men craving power will don a public mask in order for private gain. It’s a story about men living with two faces: a public persona and a private will; an image vs reality; a means to an end.
Two-faced men live with the imminent tragedy that their house of cards will crash. One final straw can destroy everything, breaking the camel’s back. Men living this way, will do virtually anything to protect their polished myth. Inner turmoil ensues. Character gets twisted. Relationships suffer. Self-protection takes over. Private division and destruction follow.
This dynamic can become even more oppressive for a Christ-following man. We want to present Christian, play the role and rarely, if ever, let anyone look under the hood. There can exist a disconnect between identity and activity; resulting in a synthetic versus authentic Christian witness that is one card away from collapse.
God’s men often compartmentalize their faith and become “consumer Christians”sitting in the pews waiting to be served, or convenient Christians with a Las Vegas mentality that says “what happens outside of church stays outside of church.”
Jesus taught about, and confronted, this naïve mentality among men in Luke 6:46-49 saying: