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Fallen Soldiers March®

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Fallen Soldiers March®

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A 501 (c) (3) Non-Profit Dedicated to
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Under Fire – Forging the Sequel to TBI & PTSD Biblically

Under Fire – Forging the Sequel to TBI & PTSD Biblically

by Chris Sedgwick, Army Combat Veteran, Biblical Counselor Pursuing ACBC Certification and Masters Degree

Coming back from OIF3 (Operation Iraqi Freedom) had its trials. Sometimes horrendous trials. I am writing this article because I can relate to you if you are struggling in life with the symptoms of PTSD and TBI. Through years of struggling, I found answers that eventually changed my life. Answers that I believe could help you as well.

When we are being trained, we inherit a pride to be self-reliant in the realms of the military lifestyle. We are trained to adapt and overcome. And that may help during our deployment. However, I learned what it’s like to come back home after deployment and have no idea what’s going on with my body and mind. I didn’t know how to adapt and overcome, so I depended on the bottle, violence, and running away from problems instead of dealing with them. I know what it’s like to feel lost and depressed to the point where you try to end your life. I know what it’s like to have a hard time with simple things like reading, writing, and other skills we need to get along in society—all because of TBI and PTSD.

Maybe you get migraines that last five to seven days at a time as I still do. I feel like a crow bar is jammed inside my head and whirling about. The pain is so bad, I am light sensitive and need to be in the closet that’s in my bathroom of my home because those are the darkest place. I know what it’s like to struggle with anxiety that life isn’t going your way and the people around you don’t look at life through the same lens that you do. All you want to do is throat punch and fight them because of their lack of understanding. I understand. I have been there.

I’m writing to you to let you know how God’s Word helped me understand who He is, and in return He showed me who I am. I still am learning these things, but the journey gets easier and easier as I learn to obey God’s will for my life. I want to share the hope we have through God and His Word. If you are struggling or fighting through the hardships of life . . . or if you are a loved one watching the person you love push themselves away from God, you, and your family, I hope this helps.

But more about that later. First, I believe it’s important for you to know a little bit of my background. I joined because I had a lot of growing up to do. I was failing out of college and running out of money because of my stupidity and immaturity. I was a very immature twenty-one-year-old, and my only access to godly things at the time, before I joined, was a little youth group I attended when I was a senior in high school and during my first few years in college. Looking back, I can’t believe my youth pastor, who is a good friend now (Travis), put up with my immaturities. I wasn’t being responsible with my finances and would throw all my money away on alcohol that I never drank. I was going out and doing things that young college students do. I was failing out of college because I did not own up to my responsibilities of homework and going to class.

Time to Enlist

A turning point came from a college assignment. I was doing student observations through the elementary ed program at Montana State University (MSU). We were required to go to a school and observe a teacher, help out with recesses, and what not. It was winter and I started a snowball fight with the second graders.

Afterward I got an earful from the superintendent. This finally led me to recognize that I needed to mature. I was unhappy. I was failing at school. Joining the military seemed to be a step toward growing up and getting my life in order.

At first, I tried to follow my father’s lead and join the Air National Guard, but my ASVAB score wasn’t high enough for anything I was interested in and the recruiter at the time said, “Maybe you should think about the infantry?” He seemed disgusted because of my score. So I did. I had a friend who was in the Army National Guard as an 11b/11c, and he convinced me to join. So in the spring of 2003 I signed the papers.

About the only thing I remember about basic training is that I enjoyed it. Shortly after finishing basic, I found out that I was going to get deployed to Iraq. We prepared for it during our monthly drills. If I am to be completely honest, and others in my platoon could probably testify to this, I really didn’t take much about doing well. I was too immature and cared only about myself. First Corinthians 13:11 says it well: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child.”

My company ended up going to Texas for more training, and then to Louisiana for a bit more before heading to Iraq. I didn’t take the training seriously enough—and did not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I didn’t see going to war and possibly not coming home as an option. But then my dad told me goodbye and said that it was possibly for the last time.

In Iraq I wasn’t the greatest soldier at first. I remember a conversation I had with a gentleman in my platoon. He told me, “I know you feel all alone, and you don’t really relate to any of us. Know that we are with you and you have us, but if you don’t get your act together, you’re going to get someone killed and possibly yourself.” Those words meant a lot to me. I grew up quick that day and learned to enjoy my job as an infantryman and tried harder to do well.

As time went on, a former line leader of mine told me I had turned out to be one of the best in the platoon. I realized that I had become less self-centered. I had stopped worrying if I was going to die and cared about my brothers in arms more.

I grew up a lot from my deployment. But I was still confused about how all this fit into being a Christian. Sometimes I still felt all alone because I was on one hand trying to figure out this whole being a Christian. How could I be a soldier but not compromise my faith that I thought I had. In country (Iraq), I read a Bible I had, mainly the book of Romans. I struggled to understand what I was reading. Until years later when I went to Bible college, I had NO idea about things like theology, or what a true relationship with Jesus was all about. I knew that Jesus died for my sins on a cross and rose again. But I didn’t know the meat and potatoes of those things. I knew the practical elements of good and evil such as don’t get drunk. To me that meant all alcohol is bad, so I didn’t drink—and if you have been in the infantry, you know that drinking is a pretty big deal. I knew what the Bible said about the do’s and the dont’s. Yet, I really didn’t care about them too much and compromised my beliefs a lot, especially in the sins of sexual immorality. So I knew some of the “rules” in the Bible. I cared about some of them and not about others. But I had know idea about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

Coming Home

My parents had always been so gracious and patient with me. Little did they know how much those two attributes were going to be tested when I returned from deployment. My dad did so much for me to help me get medically discharged from the military because of my symptoms of PTSD and TBI in dealing with the migraines and memory issues. I can’t remember the exact dates, and my father shared with me something I don’t remember. When we were in Colorado Springs at the base going through medical stuff, a guy slammed a bunch of pill bottles on his desk and told me that this was going to be the rest of my life. My dad said I disagreed with him and told him I would fight hard. As I mentioned before, I would get migraines that would last five to seven days a week. They would leave me bedridden with the pain and hearing and light sensitivity. My parents helped me out financially as well. While I was going through the VA system, I couldn’t work because no one would hire me, so the money I had saved and what my parents could give me barely got me through living.

I decided to go back to college. While starting up at MSU, I remember living with my sister. I had only enough money left for a couple weeks for gas and food for my sister and me as long as I only had a piece of bread a day. I wasn’t going to be able to pay rent for the following month. The only thing I remember is being on my knees praying to God a lot for a miracle. I did this for over a week and a few days. Then one day after struggling through my school day feeling lost, depressed, confused, and alone, I got a letter in the mail from the VA. My claim had come through and they were going to back pay me from the months missed. The next day I looked into my account and saw that there was 10,000 dollars! I can’t tell you all the emotions I was going through, but know that I bought myself a steak that night and ate well. I thanked God for His timing and provision!

I tried my hardest attending at MSU but was having a hard time with reading and writing. I kept it to myself because I was too embarrassed to tell people, and I was confused as to what the heck was going on. I wasn’t retaining anything, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. I could read words, but I couldn’t put sentences together. Because of this, some professors at the university couldn’t help me and thought I was lying about needing to use notes or something to help with tests. I looked fine on the outside, but my mind and body were hurting.

In dealing with depression, I became insensitive to other people and their feelings and needs. As I continued in the life I was living, I became less and less responsive to my conscience in choosing right over wrong.

I was not nice to people around me because I felt they couldn’t understand. I was self-centered in my thinking. I didn’t care about the well-being of others such as friends and loved ones. I was unable to empathize with them.

I had such an unhealthy view of myself that I didn’t care about others at all. This led to a failure to love others. I would get angry easily and hold on to bitterness when others wronged me. I would not love them the way Jesus wanted me to. So much so that I tried to end my life twice, but by the grace of God I’m still alive.

Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out for only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Would I ever be able to live that way?

In the anxiety and depression that I was going through, I was having a REALLY hard time. I lost interest in the things I really used to enjoy and also the normal things in life we are supposed to enjoy. For example, when others whom I loved got excited about things they had accomplished or happy about something special they were going through, I could not celebrate with them. I was so anxious and depressed that no joy could ever come to me.

I also avoided crowds, certain buildings with smaller rooms at all costs so I wouldn’t get anxious from the crowds or start and or finish fights, as I often did. One time I had a feeling of hopelessness when I was on campus at Montana State because I couldn’t remember where I had parked—I even forgot what kind of vehicle I had. After searching for it for about an hour and a half, I crumbled to the ground in tears and anger. I thought, If I can’t even do this, then there is no reason for me to live because I have nothing to offer or contribute to society. I feared I would be like this the rest of my life. I felt absolutely helpless because I had given up.

Because of my anxiety, I had a really hard time sleeping at night. Some memories of incidents that happened there (in country) would flood my mind. But mainly I worried about how my life was laying out before me.

This was happening for months and on into a year. I kept this all to myself and didn’t share with anyone because I was scared my friends would make fun of me, and no one would ever understand. These are just a few examples of the hundreds of feeling and incidents, but I believe they show why I can relate to those who are struggling.

Anger was another issue that took over me. I was so angry that I would seek fights just because I knew I could win. My family and friends knew that this was not normal for me. It was hard for them to believe I would act that way. I don’t really enjoy talking about this point so I will keep it brief, but anger also took root in other ways as well. For example, if I didn’t get my way, or other people’s opinions didn’t matter, I was there to trash them in my anger by any means necessary. As Forest Gump says, “that’s all I’m going to say about that.”

Bible College

I was desperate. I left MSU and started at Montana Bible College in the spring of 2008. It was my last hope to live. Travis, my friend and pastor and the pastor of the church I went to at the time suggested I might be able to find some direction in life at the Bible college. I met with my pastor and he encouraged me to look into the Bible College. Also I was taking a class at MSU that was taught by a Bible college teacher. His name is Scott—little did I know at the time that he would eventually become one of my best friends. Scott saw me wearing a Christian tee shirt one day. Assuming from that that I was a Christian, he talked to me about the Bible college. Everything seemed to point that way, and so I enrolled.

I learned a lot about myself at the Bible college. First, I learned who I am through God and His Word. I learned I needed a relationship with Him more than I needed to breathe. I learned that everyone, including me, had sinned. Romans 3:23 say, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I learned that sin is an inward appetite we have because our heart and mind are not in line with God’s.

I began to realize my response to the symptoms of PTSD and TBI had been causing me to sin. The anger. The self-centered attitude. The way I treated others.

Taking Steps toward Healing

I’d like to share how God, through His Word got me through this horrible point in life and the feelings of hopelessness. I wish I’d known these things years earlier. It would’ve saved me years in my growing process in my life with Jesus.

The first thing is something that took me a semester at Bible college to understand: repentance and the Holy Spirit. First, repentance. Being sorry for what we’ve done wrong and turning away from it. “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21 NIV). So I finally took that step. I felt so bad for my behavior. I told God I was sorry and asked Him to help me change.

I had believed in God for as long as I could remember. I had read the Bible some. But I finally realized what I was missing—a personal relationship with Jesus. He died on the cross for all my sins. Only through Him could I be forgiven.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. – Romans 3:22–25 NLT

And so I asked Jesus to be my personal Lord and Savior. I chose to start trying to do things His way. But I realized I could not do that on my own. I needed His help to work through the pain and struggles. I needed His help to walk the Christian walk. And I learned that He had sent the Holy Spirit to help me do that.

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” – Jesus’s words to His disciples in John 14:15–17

Up until this point of understanding, I was trying to do this Christianity thing by my works—in my own power—even though I professed to believe in Jesus. I was wondering why my life didn’t feel any different. I was still doing the stupid things that were not honoring to the Lord. Specifically, I was not trusting in Him in all things, nor believing that all things work together for good for those who do love Him (Romans 8:28–29). That led me to the life of debauchery and what not. I don’t think I have to go into detail of what that looked like so I’ll just leave it at that.

I can’t remember the exact day, but I do remember that when I fell to my knees after understanding what true repentance looks like. After that, I felt like a completely different person.
I began focusing less on what I was sad about and more on what Jesus had done for me. Gradually, I became less fearful and learned to trust Jesus day to day. I began to depend less on myself and more on Him.

Change in Character

Next I began to understand what my character as a Christian should look like. I learned this through the “Beatitudes,” teachings by Jesus in Matthew 5:1–12. The Beatitudes teach much about Christian character.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 NIV). This one really hit me. To be poor in spirit is a deep humility of understanding our spiritual bankruptcy apart from God. I finally knew that I was nothing without Jesus. I realized my utter need for Jesus, more than I need to breathe. The blessing for one who is poor in spirit is entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Walking with Jesus in this world and living with Him forever in heaven.

Being poor in spirit brings us to the next one: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 NIV). What did I need to mourn over? My sin. My insistence on doing things my way instead of following Jesus. My idea that I could do life on my own. At this point in my life, I did mourn my sins—and I knew Jesus forgave me. And I began to experience His comfort amid the storms of PTSD and all I had been struggling with.

The next beatitude is about being meek. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5 NIV). A lot of people think that being meek means being weak. In the military we are trained to not be weak. We’re taught to crush life hard through being mentally and physically tough. There is no room for being weak. However, I learned that meekness has nothing to do with being weak. It involves being gentle with others. Wow! I had really been failing at that. It means accepting God’s way in humility, rather than thinking our way is better. I began seeing myself differently. I began seeing that being meek actually takes great strength.

Next is hungering and thirsting for righteousness. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6 NIV). This is the opposite of living a self-righteous life. I realized that I depended on Jesus and His righteousness. My righteousness could come only from faith in Jesus. “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8-9 NIV).
Next, Jesus speaks of those who are merciful. I had been too busy thinking about myself to show mercy to others. Yet Jesus showed mercy to me. Although I did not deserve it, He died on the cross to forgive my sins. He knows me better than anyone else. My thoughts, my attitudes, my sins. And yet He forgives me. How can I do less in my relationship with others? “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7 NIV).

Next Jesus tells us to be pure in heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8 NIV). Pure? Me? No way. And yet, when I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I entered a right relationship with God. My heart was made new. My thoughts, emotions, and feelings were made pure. Am I living a perfect life? No. But Jesus has cleansed me and is helping me become more and more like Him as I trust Him and follow Him.

Next Jesus speaks of peacemakers. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV). I had found the way to peace—through Jesus. Romans 5:1 says, “therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 2:13-14 says, “but now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both on and has broken down in his flesh the dividing was of hostility.” What word is the opposite of peace? Hostility! What a powerful lesson! I realized I must be at peace with God before I can be at peace with life and others. If I try to find that peace without Him, I will surely fail.

The final beatitude is about being persecuted for righteousness sake. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). As Christians we will be persecuted somehow and someway in our lives, and we are to “rejoice and be glad” because our reward will be great in heaven.
These Beatitudes help me understand about my heart before I began to trust Christ.

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft false witness, slander. These things defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.– Matthew 15:18–20

But now that I am following Jesus, I need, with His help, to put on “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if any one has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians3:13–14).

Do I exceed in this all the time? No. But I am growing.

Finding My Identity

You’re probably thinking, “How does all this help me with my problems in life with the symptoms of PTSD and TBI?”

As time went on after I received Jesus, I realized that before receiving Him as my personal Savior, if someone had asked me to describe myself, I’d have said I had PTSD and TBI. That’s how I saw myself. That was my identity. As long as I saw myself that way, I felt life was hopeless. I continued down the path of despair and hardship.

But what a difference Jesus has made! Jesus Himself tells us that if we “receive Him, we then have the right to be children of God to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12–13). Gradually I began to see myself as someone special—special because I am a child of God. Special because Jesus loves me. Special because I know now He has a plan for my life. Special because I don’t have to face the terrors and challenges and problems by myself. The PTSD and TBI symptoms have become easier and easier to deal with.

As a Christian let me ask you, “What and who is your identity in?” if it is in the symptoms of PTSD and TBI then you have no true hope in life and you will continue on down the path of despairs in life, and the hardships they bring as you’ve seen in my life. But, if your identity is in Jesus and the Beatitudes that Jesus instills in us, then dealing with the symptoms of PTSD and TBI become easier and easier to deal with. Anger, depression, anxiety, fear, flashbacks, you name it—they don’t define and rule over me anymore. 

Dealing with the Symptoms

I’d like to share some things God has taught me that help me deal with the PTSD and TBI symptoms. First, he is helping me make good decisions. Throughout most of my life, I have really struggled when I’m focused on myself and not on giving God glory in all that I do (1 Corinthians 10:31). When I get so wrapped up in myself, I make horrible decisions. But now I know God wants to help me (and you) develop a presence that is not consumed with anxiety, sees the big picture, remains calm in crises, and doesn’t cave under pressure. Learning how to respond and not react to circumstances takes an understanding of what God’s Word says.

One of the most important things is believing the truth in Romans 8:28–29: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be confirmed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (NIV). This passage tells us that God, in His providence, orchestrates all directions in our lives. We can take great comfort that, if we are His children, things—even those things that look bad and we don’t understand—will work themselves out for His glory and our well-being. Take hope in that truth! If fact, verse 29 tells us that God is at work to conform us into the image of His Son.

Depression.

My academics got me through fighting depression—the papers I learned to write that were on the things of God or certain life topics and what scripture says about them. I learned how to take my thoughts captive to Christ by thinking things through my papers and being at the Bible college learning from others. I will explain later what these people taught me about living life.
I still struggle with depression when I don’t take my thoughts captive. Recently I had a really hard lifechanging moment, and I fell into deep depression similar to what I had felt in my past. I felt alone, lost, sad every day for three months or so. I did think about dying a lot. I pushed my wife away a little because I was so hurt. She did not cause this, by the way. She stood by my side every single day, loving me and encouraging me.

However, depression made me feel so confused. I felt I ha no more direction in life like the last time, and I gained a lot of weight as I had the last time. BUT something was different about this bout with depression. Even though I felt these things, through Jesus and His word, I actually had a little bit of hope in life.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God my be complete, equipped for every good work.
– 2 Timothy 3:16–17

I started with this scripture just as I had done the first time I doubted with depression. It is telling me that God’s Word is a comprehensive truth that is necessary for life and godliness. So if I believe that, then I know that God is going to talk to me through His Word. Likewise, the truths found in 2 Corinthians gave me good hope to meditate on.

Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in ALL our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.– 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 (emphasis mine)

These verses aren’t like pills you take that are supposed to help and then you are done. NO, we have to accurately and diligently work at applying specifically what this means. The thing I want you to take from this is that God is a God of comfort. When I felt alone, lost, and sad, I knew He was with me because of the sliver of joy I have in him knowing He will get me through this.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that mad suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:2–8

To me, this verse packs a punch in fighting depression. Why? Let’s crush it. First of all, God, through James, tells us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” I’m sorry, but what the heck? That is the opposite of what the world says. The word count means “to evaluate,” and the natural man’s response is to not rejoice. Counting it all joy is not easy. We need to determine to trust God and not let anything steal the joy He wants us to have.

Depression breaks me from the inner peace that I usually have. If I can get back to remembering that God is a God of peace, then when He tells me to “count it all joy when trials” of depression come, I can have great joy in knowing that peace will eventually come. In verse three we have the word “testing.” This means that we need to understand that these trials of depression are designed by God for a reason. “They are tests of faith given in order to develop perseverance. In turn, perseverance produces mature Christ Character.” Romans 5:3–5 tells us as we “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” As we apply this to our lives, we see the good that will come out of depression if we just keep fighting and persevering through the testing.

James uses the word “perfect”. This may throw you off a little but, that word “perfect” means spiritual maturity, not a sinless perfection. The testing drives believers to having a deeper and greater trust in Christ to get us through, “embracing the suck” as we call it in the military that come with the hardships of depression. This will produce the maturity that James talks about and it gives a stable, righteous, and godly life instead of misery.

I want to focus on three more things in this passage. James says, “ask in faith.” This means that when we ask God for something through prayer, our must be offered up in confidence in a sovereign God. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Please take a minute to let that sink in. Asking in faith means not having our thinking divided within ourselves in an inner moral conflict or a distrust in God. If this happens, James gives us a great depiction stating that this person is “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” “The person who doubts God’s ability or willingness to provide this wisdom is like the billowing, restless sea, moving back and forth with its endless tides, never able to settle.” This sounds a lot like depression doesn’t it?

James then tells us that this person is double-minded and unstable in all their ways. There are two things to consider if that describes us: 1. We don’t know much about our faith. We are then what Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls “a poor representative of the Christian faith.” Jones says, “we should be standing out as men and women apart, people characterized by a fundamental Joy and certainty in spite of conditions, in spite of adversity.” 2. The next thing this could tell us is that we might not even be a believer in Jesus. We’re called to examine ourselves to see if we are (2 Corinthians 13:5–6).

Through all this I have learned two practical things that help. First, I want to quote Dr. Martyn Lloyd-jones again. This has helped me so much.

We must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us! Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. . . . Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

What he means by that is that we must preach to ourselves. We must question and address ourselves as David did in the Psalms. We, as believers in Jesus, must tell ourselves scriptural truths. Truths like the one found in James and the others I mentioned for fighting depression.
Let me finally add that Satan and our flesh wants us stuck in depression because it can take our focus off God. When that happened to me, it led me to committing the selfish act of trying to end my life. It led me to stop focusing on the joy I have in Jesus. It led me to not seeing the sin issues in my life and instead hurting others around me. This is true even to this day if I don’t beat my flesh into submission (1 Corinthians 9:27).

I am going to give you a list of other Scripture to study for yourself in battling depression and finding hope. But the depression will only go away if you submit to God and His Word. The joy you will have will be freeing. You will see yourself as the person you are meant to be through Christ. Also, I can’t express enough to make sure you get context in studying these out. Read about ten to fifteen verses before and after the passages I suggest. These are verses that I studied and they helped me tremendously. Then I cross referenced these and they led me to others. God’s Word is alive and active (Hebrews 9:12).

Finally, brethren, whatever things are TRUE, whatever things are NOBLE, whatever things are JUST, whatever things are pure, whatever things are LOVELY, whatever things are of GOOD report, if there is any virtue and if there is ANYTHING PRAISE WORTHY – MEDITATE on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and have seen in me, these do, and the GOD OF PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU. (emphasis mine.)– Philippians 4:8–9

The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.– Deuteronomy 31:8

I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.– Psalm 40:1-3

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.– 1 Peter 5:6–7

Anxiety.

Depression led me down a huge hole into anxiety on steroids. For me, I had huge anxiety about whether life was going to be the way it was forever (i.e. forgetting where I parked). How can I get a job with all these stupid migraines? How can I be a civilian if I can’t even function? Am a going to kill myself today? And the list goes on. My anxiety brought struggles on a regular basis. Day in and day out.

Then a couple of things happened to me. First, when I was at the Bible college, certain people in my life really helped me get through things. Second, God’s Word. After Travis told me to go to Bible college to find direction, I was led to a community of solid men.

Blake Shaw is the head counseling pastor at the church I attend and through his classes at Montana Bible College (MBC) and his taking time out of his day to work with me through a workbook and Scripture, he really taught me the sufficiency of Scripture in my life.

When I first came home from deployment, Bernie Delvalley is the man who just sat with me when I was depressed, anxious, and angry. He never pushed on issues, and he showed me Jesus through his patience.

Gale Heidi is a man who held me accountable to push myself and not get complacent about doing the right things I needed to do. He is a very stern but loving guy who taught me to calm down my sinful aggressions and to hone in my aggressiveness in fighting the hardships of life.

Scott Morningstar is one of my best friends to this day. He has stood by my side through some hard times and challenged me to love my enemies after I told him that I didn’t care if they all burned in hell. He led me to one of the hardest truths that I had to face. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” After Jesus says that, he gives guidelines on how to live life as a believer. One of them is to forgive your enemies and others for wrongs they have done (Matthew 6:14–15). Scott still holds me accountable to that. He also shows me that Jesus doesn’t expect perfection, just obedience.

Andy Gerlach helped me see my sin for what it is. Utterly disgusting! He showed me what God’s holy standard for His children is.

Micah K. is another one of my best friends to this day. You will never find a more knowledgeable man in the things of God. He encourages me to be in the Word daily. He challenges me to be more like Christ to my wife and for the Body of Christ. He also has helped with my library, which isn’t a bad thing.

This one I did leave for last because she means so much to me. And that is my wife, Rachel. She has taught me to be practical with what Scripture says, to make it more relatable. I know I don’t make life easy for her because of my past habits, but I love her to the moon and back. She also pushes me to be more like Jesus for her.

I know I went on a bunny trail, but there are two things I want you to understand. The first is that none of these people were ever in the military and yet I trust them. At first because of my anxiety, I didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t in the military. These people taught me that there is more to life in the realm of trust than just being able to relate. The second is that these men discipled me before I met my wife. They mentored me. Community is so important. Who we hang out with and how they pour into our lives is so critical. They are godly people who care more for me than anyone else does. And my beautiful wife shows me how to serve her by getting to know her more and more through what she sacrifices. When dealing with anxiety and the other symptoms of PTSD, having good, godly people in your life is so critical.

What does God’s Word tell us how to fight off anxiety? I’m going to take you to a passage that has really helped me understand God and who He is even more. He truly cares about us.
Therefore I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘what shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ for after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.– Words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25–34

I could talk a lot about this passage, but I’m just going to give you a few truths that I found especially helpful. The context of this passage is dealing with the attitude toward what we eat, drink, and wear. These are the necessities in life that we need, and in life there is enough to worry about that could lead to becoming anxious. We need to put our trust in God’s provision for us and focus on just one day at a time so we can let God help us deal with and lead us in our daily tasks and worries.

This passage also tells us that we can control only what is in front of us, and sometimes that ‘s a challenge. Jesus is telling us here to not worry about the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual things we need and to let Him through His Spirit guide us. Jesus is telling us that no area of our lives, whether external needs or internal needs, goes unmet by our heavenly Father. Our heavenly Father knows our needs before we ask. When I am tempted with anxiety, it helps me to remember that I have Jesus, who sympathizes with my struggles and temptation.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in a time of need. – Hebrews 4:15–16

I have learned somewhere that the term worry comes from an old German word that means to strangle, or choke. This is a great illustration of our lives when we worry with anxiety so intensively. This is exactly what anxiety and depression do. Worry is an emotional and mental strangulation that I think causes more mental and physical affliction than any other single thing. So with all this said, let me ask you this: What is the opposite of worry or anxiety? The answer is contentment.

I find so much encouragement in Philippians 4:11: “I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” In verse 13 of the same chapter, Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Contentment is found only in God.

Think about that for a minute. God tells us in Psalm 24:1 that He owns the universe. If He owns the universe, I believe wholeheartedly that He can have more than some control of our lives. God provides food for the birds as Matthew 6 says, and they don’t even worry where their next meal is going to come from. Can He not provide food and an anxiety-free day for us? Jesus even asks this rhetorical question: “Are you not worth more than birds?” If God gives flowers beautiful “clothing,” can He not take away our worry and anxiety while providing clothing as well?

We serve a big God. As Christians, we believe that God can redeem and save us from our sins, break the shackles of Satan, and take us to heaven when we pass from here. We know He has prepared a place for us for all eternity. With all that, it’s crazy that we can’t trust Him to supply our daily needs and give us victory over anxiety and depression.

When it comes to salvation through Christ, we put our eternal destiny in His hands, but when anxiety and worry hit us, we refuse to believe that He can get us out of it. Can you relate to that thought? I sure can. When I’m focusing on myself and not who I am in Jesus and His truths, this is where I end up.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and THE PEACE OF GOD, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.– Philippians 4:6–9 NKJV, emphasis mine

Think about the truth and absolute certainty that are found in this passage. This gives me great hope, knowing that if I make my prayer request to God about what I’m anxious about, when I’m thankful and when I think and do rightly (verses 8–9), then the peace of God will guard my thoughts and my heart and I will no longer be anxious.

I trust that gives you hope. If you let anxiety and depression take over and do not let God take over your heart, you will lose—and that is what Satan wants. Anxiety can be a form of evil because it causes you to take your focus off of God, your Savior. You do not have to let anxiety ruin you. As a Christian, you are not to identity with or be controlled by these things. Instead, let Christ make you grounded and steadfast from the hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:23–24).

I’m going to give you a list of verses to study under this topic, verses that have helped me. I hope you study these out and meditate on them for heart change and life change.
Proverbs 12:25 – an anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.

Proverbs 17:22 – a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up bones.

Psalm 94:19 – when anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Anger.

Anger is a monster. It used to run my life. As I have said before, I don’t want to get into too much detail on what it made me do, but rest assured that I fought a lot. Anger would lead me to react in ways that are not my character. For those of you who know me, you know that kind of behavior is not me, but it was slowly becoming my character. I would lose my mind and not remember what I did or who I hurt when trials came. One example was I was at a bar and somebody told me that 9/11 never happened and I had been over in Iraq for no reason. I got so mad that I broke his ribs, nose, and jaw. The bartender stood up for me. Instead of calling the cops, he agreed with me and just told me to leave.

When I started taking my walk with God serious, I made an intense, and sometimes exhausting effort to remember the truth found in James 1:19–21:

So then, my beloved brethren. Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

This led me to really think about what it means to be meek (as I explained before in our discussion of the Beatitudes). I needed to become gentle. So I made a huge effort to not go to places I knew would set me off. Places such as the bars and even restaurants for a while. I even stopped associating with some people I knew.

Then when I knew that through Christ, I had the anger under control, I started hanging out with people who are polar opposite from me. I have a friend named West. I met him at Bible college, and at first, he did not like me at all because of my intensive intimidating demeaner. I didn’t care for him much because I felt he was too gentle and soft. But we began hanging out, and he taught me how to be gentle and not angry. He taught me that not everyone is out to get me; therefore, I can let my guard down a little and interact with people instead of being angry at them. I could give them the benefit of the doubt.

Another passage in Scripture I found helpful is in Proverbs 15. Verse 1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Verse 18 says, “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” A form of anger can come when you just think about killing someone. Jesus says this in Matthew 5:21–22:

“You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘you shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of the judgement. And whoever says to his brother Raca! Shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, you fool shall be in danger of hell fire.”

There is a lot that I can unpack here, so I’ll give you the main points. Jesus tells the Scribes and Pharisees that the teachings they were teaching are not true. When you see the phrase, “you have heard it was said,” Jesus is pointing to what the spiritual leaders (the teachers) had taught the people. Yet here, in Matthew 5, Jesus takes the point beyond external actions such as taking someone’s life physically. The religious teachers were telling people to not murder. Jesus goes after the heart. He talks about going after a brother without cause with sinful motives such has anger and hatred. Jesus is saying that even using verbal insults and thinking about killing someone you have murdered them in your heart.

I want to challenge you, if you struggle with anger, do an intensive Bible study on anger and ask God to change your heart.

If You Are Not a Christian . . .

If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, I hope this has challenged you and helped you realize that you need Jesus in your life. It is only through what Jesus did on the cross that one can come to understand all the things you have read.

Jesus loves you. You don’t have to become a better person to reach out to Him. He loves you now and is reaching out to you. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, my prayer is that you listen to these truths.

You didn’t just happen to read this article. He wanted you to read it. If you are suffering right now and want a way out, I know from experience—and from the Bible—you will find the way out only through God’s son, Jesus. I’m going to end it with words from the greatest man to ever live this earth. Jesus Christ!

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden [weighed down], and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and My burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

Truth be told, when we battle PTSD and TBI and subsequent issues that come with these, things like anger, anxiety, depression, etc., we don’t have rest for our souls. Jesus offers rest for the soul to the one who yokes up with Him. The one who submits to Him. My prayer is that you, fellow soldier and fellow suffer will submit your life to him so you can truly find rest for your soul.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:8-11 NLT

If you want to choose Jesus . . . to find rest . . . just talk to Him right now. He is waiting to hear from you.

God Has a Plan for You

Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean all our problems will instantly disappear. It doesn’t mean that we will never suffer again. Even Christ suffered here on the earth. He is the Son of God. He lived a sinless life, loving and helping others. And yet He was beaten almost to death, mocked, made fun of in ways that you and I can’t even imagine. He was beaten beyond recognition. Then he willingly died an excruciating death of the cross—to pay the price for your sin and mine. Three days later, he arose—conquering death for all who follow Him. Hebrews 2:18 tells us that He himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to aid those who are tempted and suffering as well.

While on earth, Jesus even said we would have problems. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV). He overcame—and will help us overcome as well if we trust Him.

When we’re going through a hard time with the symptoms of PTSD and TBI, we need to reach out to Jesus and learn to trust Him. We need to reach out to the lost with the gospel and serve others for Christ and His glory.

Has this worked for me? Absolutely. Yes, I still sometimes get headaches. I still sometimes temporarily slip back into old patterns of anger, anxiety, and depression. But the difference is I am not alone. Jesus is with me every moment—and when I remember to lean on Him, He is right there to help me. Because of that, I live with hope.

I write to help you understand that God knows the plans He has for you—plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future (read Jeremiah 29:11). This is the same God who wants all people to be saved from their sin and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3–4). The same God who will help us give thanks in all circumstances, avoiding sin, that we may know His peace and He may equip us for good in doing His will. The one and only true God, who will help us finally understand Romans 8:28 to its fullest: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Yes, you do have reason to hope. There is great hope in Jesus and His will for your life.

by Chris Sedgwick, Army Combat Veteran, Biblical Counselor Pursuing ACBC Certification and Masters Degree

 

FSM DISCLAIMER: The above represent the views of the particular author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of this organization or any of its members.

 

Bibliography
Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible; The Gospel of Matthew, volume one. Louiville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.
God. John MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997.
—. Reformation Study Bible. Sanford, FL: Reformatin Trust Publishing, 2015.
—. The Holy Bible, Reformation Study Bible. Sanford: Reformatin Trust Publishing, 2015.
Lloyd-Jones, Dr. Martyn. Spiritual Depression; Its causes and cures. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965.
—. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7. Chicago: Moody Publisher, 1985.
Owen, John. The Mortification of Sin. Edinburgh, UK: Richard Rushing, 2009 reprint.

 

 

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