A Christmas “Story”
“You saved my life.”
I’ve heard these words before. Usually, they come from a total stranger through an email or a letter; someone who has picked up “Hope Again” and the LifeFilters and found them an answer to a desperate prayer for help. Let me be honest. I NEVER take such a statement lightly. Every time someone expresses this to me or to Mark Sutton, I am equally shocked and humbled.
This past Sunday, I shared a story with my family at our annual Hennigan Family Christmas Party. I won’t detail the story. Just know that the point of that story was to share with my family how a seemingly painful and potentially fatal encounter in my childhood served as the source for something I did later in life that had a profound influence on the lives of others. In this case, four veterans of World War II and an elderly woman who had lived in bitterness for years because of anger over losing her brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor. In both cases, a simple scene in one of my plays echoing that event in my childhood had the unexpected consequence of bringing these people profound peace and reconciliation.
At this time of the year, we reflect on the past. Such reflection can be inspiring but it can also be painful. Both of our parents are now gone and for Sherry and I, this year is bittersweet. I sifted through old photographs for photos of our parents to place in small picture frames for our Christmas tree. The journey was painful, filled with alternating joyful memories and aching emptiness. Ravi Zacharias once said, “The only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia.”
I have to continually remind myself God uses people. True, He uses miracles. But, in the recent centuries, God has used people for His purposes. And, most of the time His work takes place through these painful experience in life and through our painful memories. God used my depression to touch people. That is the most humbling thought in the universe. Years of struggling with depression and fear and pain were not in vain. But, the key to making those experiences triumphant was giving them over to God for His use. In so doing, I was opening myself up to God using me and my story for His purposes.
This isn’t just rambling. That statement I mentioned at the beginning of today’s post came from the most unexpected source. I cannot share this person’s name. But, I will tell you that this person found a package of our LifeFilters left behind by a relative. This person had prayed for God’s help with his/her depression and begged for a “miracle”. The pack of LifeFilters was left behind “accidentally” at his house by a relative. He/she picked them up and began to use them.
I sat across the table from this person in our church’s coffee shop as he shared this with me. It turns out this person had been secretly struggling with the new onset of a type of bipolar disorder. He/she had sought the help of many professionals and was frustrated with his/her response to treatment. He/she looked at me and held the pack of well worn LifeFilters to his/her chest.
“I sleep with them next to my heart every night. They have saved my life.” He/she shared how they asked their relative where they had gotten the cards thinking they had to have been written by “some professional from New York” only to discover they had come from his/her good friends Bruce Hennigan and Mark Sutton. I was stunned. I was humbled. This person was an icon to me; a paragon of virtue and Christian values. He/she had taught young students in Sunday School for decades and had changed so many lives for Christ. And, here they were thanking ME for “saving my life”. Wow! God works in so many mysterious and moving ways!
This Christmas season, we look upon the Nativity scene and most of the world sees it as a great “story”. It is recreated in churches and pageants; on Christmas cards and television and in movies. But, its more than just a “story”. Like every event of our lives, these things really happened and carry with them power and strength for those around us. You see, when God takes our “stories” and uses them for His purposes, they become more than real. They become sacred tools of God’s everyday miracles. Like seeing this dear friend of mine clutch a set of LifeFilters to his/her chest like they were a rope thrown to a drowning man.
Many of you are suffering from depression this year. Just know that God is there in every detail and every moment of our lives. Many times we cannot feel Him; cannot see Him. In our depression and despair we cry out for a miracle. My prayers for each and every one of you is that God will give you that everyday miracle; that you will find true peace, joy, and hope again in this Christmas season. Mark and I are thankful for each of you and we are praying for every person who picks up a copy of our book or our LifeFilters. May God give you peace this Christmas and may you have a wonderful New Year.
For more information on our book “Hope Again: A 30 Plan for Conquering Depression” go to this site.