Blue Christmas

This past month has been one of the toughest for me as a missionary on a foreign field. I began feeling mildly depressed early in the month when I realized that something I had hoped would happen wasn't going to happen any time soon. I found myself feeling sad and wondering why. It took about a week before I recognized that my unfulfilled expectation was part of the cause. Even then, when I realized the trigger for my depression, I was not able to shake it.

The Christmas season can be hard for anyone when they are used to spending the holiday with their family. I remember being in Thailand for Christmas a couple of years ago with my good friends Tain and Zinan.
I really enjoy being with both of these guys, but on Christmas day I was moping alone at a McDonalds in a huge shopping mall, surrounded by people I didn't know. Fortunately, that evening we attended a Christmas service at a local church and the love of God buoyed my sagging spirit.

This year I received a package with some Christmas gifts sent at great expense by my parents. A few Christmas cards arrived at my home and at the church. I attended a Christmas program performed by adorable Korean children at the English language preschool where I do ministry.
Our church Christmas Eve service and celebration was joyous and Spirit-filled. Dawn Doorenbos, Tain Palanun, and his friend Jack visited from Thailand for a few days. But I was still sad. Sad and burdened.

A few days before Christmas, a famous Korean Kpop singer took his own life. He was young, handsome, talented, wealthy, and deeply troubled. His last music video was called 'Lonely' and looking at it in hindsight, you can see this song was autobiographical and a cry for real love. I read that this young man attended a Christian high school for a time before dropping out to pursue a career in music. He was very successful with his music, but in his suicide note he wrote that he was broken inside and that he wondered why he had chosen the life of a celebrity.

A while ago, I prayed and asked God to give me a greater burden for people here in Korea. And I am wondering if this mild taste of depression is God's way of helping me to identify with some of the people in Korea. Too many people take their own lives in this country. They want to escape the guilt, the shame, and the fear of not being good enough. There is so much pressure to look good, get good grades, get into a good school, get a good career, get good stuff, and even be a good Christian. I find myself having to cast down projections about being a good enough person to lead the church here.
On Christmas Eve, I preached about the Incarnation of Christ, God voluntarily setting aside the rights and privileges of His divinity, putting on human flesh and living as a man among men. We talked about what that really meant. Jesus was sent out by the Father like a missionary to live among the people of the earth. Jesus experienced what it means to be human, even what it means to be separated from fellowship with God when He took all the sins of humanity upon himself at the Cross and cried out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"

I'm writing this blog entry on the last day of 2017. I have a stuffy head, runny nose, cold (which I think made my preaching sound interesting this morning), and I'm still feeling a little blue. But I find that I look at the Korean people I see on the bus, the subway, in the supermarket, in the restaurant, and in our church and little differently now. I am more concerned about them than I once was. I want to love them more, by God's grace and with God's help. God forbid that I should overlook an obvious need for love in the people around me, like that of the Kpop singer who sang to millions of people about his loneliness.

Pray for me. I am very much loved here, but pray for me as the leader of our church. Pray for both North and South Korea and this part of the world. Pray for our church to have an impact on this world.


  1. Matthew 17
    [22] And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:
    [23] And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

    Revelation 18
    [1] And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.



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