Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)
If you wait until you have it all together to get in the game of ministry, you will always be on the sidelines. As some of you know, I have struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a young child, and even after I became a Christian, I still have seasons where I struggle. But now the struggle is different.
The symptoms are the same, the feeling is the same, the irritability, problems with sleep, and all that goes with it are the same, but there is one major difference. That difference is hope.
In the above passage, Paul is reflecting on his pursuit of Jesus and that he has yet to “arrive”. What is interesting to me, is that he uses the idea of ‘straining’ and ‘pressing’ in his pursuit of becoming more like Jesus. There is no sense of ‘gliding’ or ‘drifting’. There is an effort, an opportunity to willfully push on towards Jesus.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating that we must work for God’s continued pleasure in us. By God’s grace, God’s pleasure with us is found in Christ in us (see Galatians 2:20). However, there is a true sense that there will be struggles along the way, and that we can either be crippled by them, or we can join Paul in straining and pressing towards the goal, which ultimately is our prize, Jesus. We have Jesus, and there is always more of Jesus to have. He is infinite (limitless), we are finite (limited).
For me, I have learned that when depression creeps in I need to slow down and assess my life. It is important to honestly confess any sin that I am aware of, and make adjustments to my life. Once I have done an honest evaluation of my life, I then understand that if the cloud still has not passed, that God is inviting me into deeper intimacy with Himself. This invitation is what makes the straining and pressing worth it. He is with us, He is calling us, He will waste nothing, and He will transform us.
Whether you are in a bright and joyful season, or you are in the pit of depression, if you are a follower of Jesus, He is near to you, He has not left you, He is calling you to press on, to grow, to mature, to trust, and to know Him more. Don’t give up! Depend on Him and follow Him. Jesus is your hope and your help.