Posts Tagged With: Depression

linvilles in Love with minecraft

Dearest prayer warriors,

We safely arrived back in our village on the 22nd of July. To deal with the stress and depression, we decided to forego our typical weekly schedule of ministry, homeschooling, strict dieting, and daily exercise, in favor of resting, praying, and avoiding insanity. Even so, the last five days have been hard.

God is so gracious in helping us follow him. After deciding to stay inside and rest instead of going out, there was some temptation to feel guilty – but God serendipitously washed that away…with monsoon season.

Monsoon season always brings flooding, but people always act surprised by it.

Monsoon season always brings flooding, but people always act surprised by it.

Schools are closed so kids walk to high ground to socialize.

Schools are closed so kids walk to high ground to socialize.

Pedal Rickshaws exchanged for Paddle Nokahs (boats).

Pedal Rickshaws exchanged for Paddle Nokahs (boats).

Serious flooding happens every year when the rivers swell over their banks. This is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. A blessing because this one way that Bangladesh grows rice. The farmers prepare their rice fields in anticipation of flooding, carving out land pockets that will catch and hold the flood waters so they can plant rice when the flood recedes.

Flooding for Rice Fields

Flooding is more obviously a curse, washing away precious crop land and damaging roads and buildings. This is a serious problem that I will address more specifically in my next blog. Of course we’ll have a ton of work to do in disaster relief after the waters recede, but unfortunately there’s nothing that we can do while the flood is happening…and, like every year, it will be happening for the next 5 to 6 weeks, a.k.a, monsoon season.

What does all this mean for us right now? Well, it means we’ll be doing a lot of waiting. Ironically, even if we had come back ready to return to the villages and share the gospel and disciple believers, we wouldn’t have been able to do so. Roads are underwater and boats are few and far between. But that didn’t stop me and my national partners last year. Last year we paid five times the normal cost to travel down to the villages by nokah (which took 3x as long to do) only to find that most of the villages were empty. To be fair, I had been warned of this possibility by my national partners, but I couldn’t imagine waiting 6 weeks to continue discipling our new believers. In the end, that’s what we had to do.

That time has come again, but now we need the rest and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to just live in community here with our villagers, sipping hot tea, watching as the torrential rain relentlessly falls from heaven, and playing Minecraft.

Now, being stuck inside, there’s no way I can blog about the previous five days and fail to mention Minecraft.

For those of you who know me, you know that I hate being stuck inside, because this can really exacerbate my depression. Well, Minecraft is what God used to reset my emotional stability. Mrs. Linville likes it (she built The Gray Havens), Little J likes it (he flies around spawning legions upon legions of creatures until his server crashes), and the villagers like it (they mostly just blow stuff up with the TNT).

I’ve never played Minecraft before, but I’ve certainly been exposed to the Minecraft culture via YouTube, and, after watching a crazy video about it, I decided to download it (with my wife’s permission, of course) and give it a whirl.

Having only been really into two other games in my entire life (Jet Motto [1996] & Skyrim [2011] ), I’m by no means an expert, but I think Minecraft is the most perfect game ever created. Perhaps there are other games out there with no levels, objectives, rewards, or missions, but this is the first one I’ve been exposed to, and I love it.

I love it because I can turn it on, dig a digital (nonexistent) hole for five minutes, turn it off, and be done. In that way it’s somehow efficiently unproductive. Did I just waste five minutes of my life?

Absolutely.

Is that okay?

Yes. In moderation.

Why? Because having the ability to “waste life” is at the pinnacle of human experience. Of course, one could argue that any moment spent in the enjoyment of pursuing happiness could hardly be a waste of life, and I would agree. In this way, I believe that I can honestly say that I play Minecraft for Jesus.

How can I say this?

Because Minecraft is not why I’m happy to play Minecraft, Jesus is why I’m happy to play Minecraft. And the same should be true for everything else, but it’s not.

Over the past two years, I’ve struggled against developing the “savior complex.” This is what happens when I start believing that helping people is why I came here. Philanthropy is good, but when it results in receiving uninhibited thanksgiving and celebration – in my name – it can quickly become an idol. After all, who doesn’t like to be appreciated for hard work? But…

“Idolatry is taking a good thing, making it a god thing, and that’s a very bad thing.” – Mark Driscoll, from the sermon Resisting Idols Like Jesus, preached April 13, 2013 at Mars Hill Church

Note: Smiles are considered inappropriate for pictures here. They looked happy until the cameras came out.

Note: Smiles are considered inappropriate for pictures here. They looked happy until the cameras came out.

Going into a majority-world jungle village as a wealthy white male is as close to feeling like a god as any mortal could ever feel. There’s no shedding of blood, but there’s definitely sacrifices being made, and while it’s incredibly awkward, it’s also a little intoxicating. Of course I desperately do everything I can to vocally redirect this praise towards Jesus, but my wicked sinful heart is ever eager to believe that I am worthy of praise.

So I confess that sometimes philanthropy has been why I’ve been happy to live overseas, and not because of Jesus.

Likewise, I confess that sometimes:

  • receiving respect & honor has been why I’ve been happy to live overseas, and not because of Jesus.
  • getting paid to travel the world has been why I’ve been happy to live overseas, and not because of Jesus.
  • immersing my kids in a multi-lingual cross-cultural environment has been why I’ve been happy to live overseas, and not because of Jesus.
  • et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Somehow I’m a new creation in Christ Jesus that still struggles with my old creation’s wicked idol making heart. It is the ambition of the devil to turn a few good things into the main things when I’m struggling with hating having to live here. The great deception is accomplished when I believe that by focusing on the positive instead of the negative, I’m doing well. Wrong. Focusing on anything other than Christ results in idolatry, and of this I am extremely guilty.

Thus, I am overwhelming humbled by Isaiah 42:3:

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

And I encourage all of you to read Alexander MacLaren’s (1826-1910) insightful comments regarding this beautiful verse and join me in the bliss of our inheritance in Christ right here.

God grows us in mysterious ways, and right now he’s growing me through Minecraft, allowing me during this monsoon season to enjoy something good while protecting me from my propensity to idolize. What has God used to grow you in this way? Gardening? Sailing? Fishing? Sewing? Hunting? Reading? Writing? Cooking? A different video game? Please share that with us in the comments below! Also, don’t hesitate to call me out on this if you think I’m wrong or want me to clarify something. All criticism is welcome!

Regarding my depression, please pray that I learn the lesson God is teaching me: to focus on Christ amidst all my subjective positive and negative feelings, which can change as quickly as a monsoon wind.

For those who prayed for us last week:

  1. Praise! Our personal quiet times have been more consistent. Keep praying for us in this!
  2. Praise! I blogged again!
  3. Request: I’m hoping to make some flood related videos for the next blog. Pray I can do this.
  4. Request: We have not done anything more to challenge our disciple Jell to grow and make a disciple of his own. Continue praying for him and for us to do this.
  5. Request: Pray the Lord shows us the best way to continue studying Bangla.

Preview for the next blog:

Living in a flood. What we deal with, what they deal with, and how you can help.

To all of you who’ve been so loving and encouraging in leaving us comments, please continue. What ways has the Lord given you to enjoy living life for Jesus? Football? Dinner clubs? Pinterest? Also, we’d love any Scriptures that the Lord has recently used to encourage you. Thanks!

in Love

the linvilles

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linvilles in Love with village-side anniversaries

Dearest prayer warriors,

We feel like failures. Tomorrow we celebrate our one year village-side anniversary. What, pray tell, have we accomplished in a year?

1. Not dying

Seriously! This is not a joke. Staying alive is a big deal, and it is not easy here. Living in the village has exposed us to enough death to last a lifetime. Women walk the streets carrying and wailing over their lifeless babies for days; young rickshaw pullers living off of a handful of rice a day fear going to sleep at night because they’ve seen so many of their friends lie down to rest and never rise again. The emotional stress on some is so enormous that they have heart attacks and die just from hearing thunder! If this wasn’t enough, there’s the work & travel related accidents that claim hundreds of lives each week because safety isn’t emphasized or enforced here. Beyond this, the newspaper is bursting with stories of mothers murdering their children, husbands murdering their wives, children murdering their parents; and it’s over things like smartphones, dowries, or school tuition – material concerns.

Nevertheless, we live, and that’s no laughing matter.

2. Making a disciple

Yep. Just one. No, we didn’t lead him to Christ. No, we didn’t baptize him. No, we haven’t taught him to obey all that Christ commanded. He knew all that before we met him. So, why claim to have “made a disciple”? Because disciple making is just as much about journeying through sanctification as it is about leading one to Christ for justification. Is a gardener only she who tends to plants she’s personally grown from seeds? No. We’re making a disciple by maintaining his discipleship and it’s hard work. He arrives at 8am in the morning and leaves between 8 and 10pm at night everynight. He sees us laugh, cry, fight, forgive, struggle, and succeed. He sits at our table for every meal. He knows exactly how much money we make, save, spend, give, and waste. He knows our flaws, our secrets, our strengths, our fears, and our joys. As we are Christian, so shall he be Christian (hence the importance for contextualization). This sacrifice of privacy is the most terrifying gift of Christ to us, but it’s undeniably the most helpful in conforming us to him.

3. Still struggling to learn the language

Learning a language is hard, but I never imagined it would be this hard; especially since I’ve got that magical element of immersion. I hear Bangla all day everyday, but I still talk (& comprehend) like a six year old, respectively. If you haven’t talked to a six year old recently, go find one and have a conversation. You’ll quickly learn that speaking and conversing are very different. Like a six year old, my problem is comprehending what’s being said in regards to how it applies to the conversation. For instance, I’ll mention that it looks like it might rain and the guy across from me says: “Yeah. My uncle was buried last week.”

DrSpockFascinating

This doesn’t make sense until you learn that it’s quite common in the village for dead bodies to wash out of new graves during heavy rain because of flooding. The man’s reply reflects what the upcoming storm means to him – what he might have to deal with – and could’ve inspired a great conversation about Christ if I hadn’t been silenced by my utter confusion.

And that’s it. Not dying, making a disciple, and maintaining a continued struggle with learning this language – that’s all we’ve got after living in our village for an entire year and it makes us feel like failures.

Is this feeling from God? Absolutely not. How do I know? Because it centers on us!

It completely ignores the sovereignty of God over our lives by enthroning the shortsighted ambitions that seem right and good to us.

The weeping prophet, Jeremiah, proclaimed the most amazing message (31:27-34) that the people of Judah ignored for all of Jeremiah’s forty years of ministry. Was this why he wept? Nope. In 9:1, Jeremiah says:

The Weeping Prophet

“Prophet Jeremiah” fresco by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel, circa 1508-1512.

Jeremiah wept for his people who had been slain for their persistent rebellion against God. He wept over their failure to repent. He wept for Judah, not for himself. God had chosen him and enabled him to prophesy so he only spoke as God spoke through him. For Jeremiah to think, “I’m a failure” would be like him thinking “God’s a failure” since he was merely God’s messenger.

Is God a failure? No. Am I ever tempted to think that God has failed me?

Yes.

And whenever this happens I can be assured that I’ve departed from faithfully walking with Him.

Put it together. If we feel like failures – like we’ve failed to do what God has chosen and enabled us to do – what does that say about God?

It says that we feel like God has failed us.

Are we aware of how stupid this is? Certainly. Is it obvious to us that we’re the ones who have failed God? Absolutely. Are we confused about feeling like we’ve failed God in doing what God promised to do through us?

Yes.

Through this week, please pray

  1. For our personal quite times: that we’d be consistent and determined to meet with God daily.
  2. For our disciple (Jell): that we’d do more to challenge him to grow and make a disciple of his own.
  3. For our language learning: that we’d commit to spending at least two hours a day learning new vocabulary.
  4. For these updates: that I’d be more consistent in providing y’all with the information you need to intercede for us and thereby plant new churches with us for God’s glory.

I’ve got no resolution for you. This is how it ends. This is how we’re feeling right now, despite how this feeling completely ignores the sovereignty of God over our lives. We need your prayers and please leave us your comments. Any encouragement and wisdom that you can spare would be greatly appreciated.

in Love,

the linvilles

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