“I felt like I was trapped in a sunless garden where the flowers are all dead.” Those are some words I used to describe my depression experience back in 2002. If you are going through a depression, I’ve been there. In fact, I battle it almost on a daily basis and at CCC there is no stigma around mental illness.
As I reflect back on that dark night of the soul, I think about this question: What caused my depression? Several things. But one thing came to light when I was having a meeting with my pastor.
As a pastor, I’ve a pastor. In our faith community that person is called our district superintendent. At the time of my depression, the district super intendent was a man named Clarence St John, a man of about 70, with a soft spoken voice and a caring heart. Clarence came to visit me because I told him I wanted to quit the ministry. He was going to try and talk me out of quitting. He brought another man with him named Jerry who was a pastor of a large church, and who invested a lot in younger leaders. We talked for a while, and then Pastor Clarence lovingly pointed out a blind spot I had that I was unaware of. At the office building right next to the Byron bowling alley we met and He pointed to the other pastor and said, He is the best connected pastor I know. He then pointed to me and said, You are the least connected pastor I know.
His words penetrated my heart. He was right. I was so busy working at this church and taking care of my family that I failed to carve out time to connect with other pastors. I was a long ranger, and I think that’s one of the contributing factors that led to my depression.
Can you relate today? Are you a lone ranger? Are you living by the philosophy of rugged individualism? Are you wrestling with intense loneliness?
Psalms 102:6 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.
Notice very carefully that the psalmist feels like an owl in the dessert. The owl is all alone and in a dessert. Owls do not belong in the desert. Also notice he’s among the ruins. Are you like that owl today? Alone. Among ruins- your life is quite broken today. You feel like you do not fit where you are.
Some of you are experiencing the feelings of loneliness as a single person and you’re afraid that you’re going to be alone for the rest of your life. You wonder, will I ever find someone to love me? Some of you used to go to the office and work. While you were there you would socialize and get to know other people. But now you work from home and don’t have a social outlet. Some of you are grieving a relationship that has been lost. Maybe this person came to church and you were really close to them, but after the pandemic you don’t see them anymore. Some of you are alone because some hot button issue has divided you from someone you love. Maybe you have a different political opinion or a different opinion on the vaccine and as a result this person wants nothing more to do you with you. Perhaps you are grieving your kids going off to college in a few weeks.
Do you feel so alone that you self-medicate with alcohol or food? I read once that only 10% of men have a close friend, someone who you could call at 2 a.m. and they would be there for you. I don’t know what the percentage is for women, but I’m sure there are women who’re dealing with loneliness as well. What do you do when you feel like that owl in the desert?
To answer that question, I want to encourage you to look to the second book in the Bible.
8 While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them.
Put yourself in the place of the Israelites. As you look at your day planner, it is going to be a normal day, or so you think. Eat a healthy breakfast- luck charms and mountain dew, drop the kids off at school, go to work, eat dinner-sardines and onions, go to bed by listening to one of Pastor Steve’s messages. That’s how you think the day will go, and then out of nowhere you’re attacked by a vicious enemy. This is what happened to the Israelites.
The Amalekites were the descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau. They were a nomadic tribe that lived in the desert region of the dead sea. They made their living by invading other settlements and stealing from them. They were basically career criminals who killed for pleasure. One of the great insults in Israelite culture was to call someone a “friend of Amalek.”
9 Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us.
This is the first Joshua is mentioned in the Bible, and he will go onto one day become Moses successor.
Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.”
So Joshua and his men are going to fight the Amalekites and Moses ad Aaron and Hur are going to go to the top of the hill to hold the staff of God in his hand – up in the air. What is that all about?
15 Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”).
A banner was a standard or flag that an army would hold up as it went into battle. And when Moses said he would hold the staff of God in the air, that was symbolic of him making the Lord his banner. saying that the Lord is our strength and power.
Some of you can relate to the Israelites. What is your banner? Where are you placing your trust? Whose strength are you depending on? Your money, your smarts, your family name, your wits, or are you like Moses? Have you made the Lord your banner, and are you trusting in him, declaring the battle belongs to the lord. The battle belongs to the lord. The battle belongs to the lord.
What happened next?
10 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill.
I want you to notice something very important: Joshua and his army went off to fight a seen enemy; Moses and Aaron and Hur went off to fight an unseen enemy. Joshua and his army went off to fight a physical fight, Moses and Aaron and Hur went off to fight a spiritual one. Whatever battle you are facing today, there is a seen component to it and an unseen one; there is a physical aspect to it and a spiritual aspect to it.
Also notice, Moses did not climb the hill alone. He had Aaron with him – his brother, his spokesperson, and the first high priest of Israel. He also had a man with him named Hur that we don’t know much about.
11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage.
Now what did his uplifted hands represent? The Lord is our banner. The Lord is our strength. The Lord is our power. As long as his hands were up, symbolizing faith and dependence on God, the army was winning. As soon as his hands lowered, they were losing.
Please listen carefully. I want you to make a very important connection. Do you see that what happened in the spiritual realm – whether his hands were up or down- affected what happened in the physical ream? Are you aware that what happens in the spirit realm affects the physical ream? Often behind physical realities are spiritual ones. Now the opposite can be true as well. What we do in the physical realm can affect the spiritual realm as well. Those two realms are connected.
12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up.
One of the things I love about this verse is that it reminds us that Moses was human. When we think of Moses we can think about all the great things God did through him like Part the red sea, and put him on a pedestal. This verse helps us to take him off this pedestal and remember that all the people in the Bible, and all the people listening to this message are human, we get tired, weary and wore down. So what happened when Moses got tired?
So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset.
What I want you to see in this scene is that what Moses could not do for himself, Aaron and Hur did. They were strong when he was weak. What if Moses would have climbed the hill alone? The battle would have been lost. Are you losing that battle because you’ve climbed the hill alone?
As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.
As the result of teamwork – Moses and Aaron and Hur fighting in the spirit realm and Joshua and his army fighting in the physical ream – the Israelites won the battle and defeated what would have seemed liked an impossible foe. In fact, if you could put yourself in the shoes of the people back in that day, and if you would have heard that the news that the Israelites defeated the Amalekites you would have thought, it’s a miracle. God is at work. For Israel to win this battle was proof that they had divine assistance because in their own strength they would have been no match for the Amalekites.
With all that in mind, today I want us to all ask ourselves this question: Who is your Aaron and Hur?
In other words, are you fighting the battle alone? Have you climbed the hill alone? Or are you fighting the battle in community? Do you have an Aaron and Hur who will be strong when you are weak if the bottom drops out…if you get bad news from the doctor…when you lose your job…when your spouse says, I found someone else… who is your Aaron and Hur?
Why does this message matter? Let’s think about when God created the world. In Genesis 2, God looks at all he had made and said it is GOOD. Think of the beauty and bounty of the garden of Eden, the lush plants, the variety of animals, the humans he has made in his own image, and the says all those things are good. There is just one thing that is not good, what?
Genesis 2:18 It is not good for man to be alone.
Current research confirms what God says to be true. Did you know that loneliness affects:
- Our brain health. For example, did you know 64% of the risk of Dementia is increased by the feeling of loneliness.
- It affects our physical health. “It has been shown in studies that people who live lonely are more vulnerable to an early death caused by heart attacks, strokes or other complications than those individuals who are living with their family.”
- It can decrease your life expectancy. “In a research on older people, those older persons who reported feeling loneliness, isolation or rejection, were more prone to chances of dying Even though they were living with their families. So it was concluded that relation between loneliness and health disorders also exist.”
Today I want to share with you four reasons to make it a priority to find your Aaron and Hur. And to do that, I want us to switch birds, we’re talking about Canadian Geese now. Specifically, I want you to think about them flying above you in that V formation. I suggest that we could learn a lot from those birds on why we should make it a top priority to find our Aaron and Hur.
- We are stronger than me.
Picture that V formation of the Geese. Did you know that when the lead bird flaps its wings, it creates an updraft for the bird right behind it? As a result, a goose can fly 72% longer when it is in the group than if it were to try and do it alone. Think about how Aaron and Hur lifted up Moses hands when they grew weary; their combined strength was greater than his individual strength.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
- We can share responsibility
When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates to the back of the formation and a new goose takes the lead. They share responsibility. Notice how when it came to fighting the Amalekites, Joshua had a responsibility – to fight the physical battle, and Moses and Aaron and Hur had a responsibility – fighting the spiritual battle. How does this apply to our church family?
We are a group of people who are working and praying to see Jesus the talk of the town. And I want to ask all of us this question: are we doing our part? In most churches, a few people do most of the work and the majority of people don’t do anything. Well, what if we all just did one thing?
- We can encourage one another.
One of the things you will notice is that the geese honk as they fly. This is to encourage the goose in front of them to keep up their speed and momentum. Are you lifting others up with your words or tearing them down? Let’s be an Aaron and Hur to others and life them up with daily encouragement.
One way you can do this is the apply the BEST acronym in your relationships with your loved ones: B-believe, E-encourage, S-support, and T-trust. Are you an Aaron and Hur to others by being an encouragement to them?
- We can help each other out when we are not doing well.
So think again about those geese flying in the V formation. Did you know that any time a goose gets sick or wounded and falls out of formation, two other geese drop out of formation with him, and they follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is able to fly again or until he dies.
Here is your assignment: Find some Aaron and Hurs. Let me give you a few thoughts on how:
- Join a process group. What is a process group? It’s a small group of people who get together to connect and do life together. You don’t have to be a Bible expert to go. Is God asking you to Join a process group?
- Pick up your one thing. One of the best ways to feel connected in our church is to serve or volunteer. These ministry teams like the worship team or the host team can often become like a process group.
- Initiate the invite. Don’t sit back and wait for other to come to you, go to them. Would you like to have coffee?
- Reconnect with an old friend. And tell them you have no other agenda than to get to reconnect. You are not going to try and sign them up for a network marketing, etc.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my three dogs. The back dog is Bear, and he’s 14. He’s a German Shepherd and Retriever mix. He can be a social butterfly but he’s also content to sit by himself. The big dog with the brown skin is Brock. Brock is our reserved, laid back dog. He likes to lay in the sun and snores when he sleeps. The only thing that makes Brock passionate is food. The dog with the darker face is Bennet. Brock and Bennet are brothers. Bennet is very clingy, needy and enmeshed. If you are sitting down and not petting him, he will make your life difficult until you do pet him.
Some of you may be wondering why we have three large dogs. Well, a couple years ago, Bear was all alone and his health was really going downhill. We thought we didn’t have much time with him. So we thought, what if we get two dogs that can grow up together, and let Bear influence them before he dies. Well, something surprising happened when we got the two dogs, Bear came alive. He perked up. And honestly he has more energy than the puppies have.
What gave Bear new life? Companionship! He finally wasn’t alone anymore. It is not good for man or dog to be alone. He didn’t find his Aaron and Hur but he did find his Brock and Bennet. Do you have some life giving people in your life? If not, I want you to make it a priority to find them.