Friday, July 8, 2016

The Christian and Depression

James 1:2-4   Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.


Today, I went to the funeral of my uncle.  His death seemed sudden, and left my sweet aunt Joy reeling, I am sure, because I know the death of my husband 21 months ago did the same thing to me and the rest of my family.
Standing in the foyer of the church where his funeral was held, a acquaintance asked me how I was doing.  She said, since she follows me on Facebook, "You seem just fine."
Someone else said that to me not long ago, too, when I told them about the depression I had fought that often left me curled up on my bed, wanting to die, "I would never have guessed that.  You always seem so cheerful."  They said.
I have been thinking about those two statements all afternoon.  I reflected over the past 21 months, and everything I have come through, and everything I have learned.  Maybe I can pass it on to someone else who struggles.

I love the Lord with all my being, and I trust him and I know that my strength is in him.  So when Bill died, and I was faced with financial and legal problems, and when family things surfaced in the next few months, while there were people I cried too, people who were faithful to listen to me and pray for me,  I knew where I should be turning.  When a friend who had also lost her husband suggested grief counseling for me, I rejected it, because I knew God should be enough.

I made a lot of mistakes, however.  Depression turned me inward at home.  I spent a lot of time curled up on my bed, thinking how I could not live through this.  Sleepless nights made me turn to over the counter sleeping pills, which turned me into a zombie during the day.  I wasn't much good to anyone.
Finally one night, when the pills put me so under I could not help a child when they were throwing up, I knew things had to change.  The next morning, when I was finally awake, I called my four youngest who were still living at home, and I apologized to them.  "Mommy is going to do better. Pray for me,"  I promised them.  In their presence, I threw all the sleeping pills away.

Then I got serious with God.

I began to fast at least one day a week, so I could pray and focus on things.  I never knew what an amazing comfort fasting could be.  It was something I could actually do, and it soothed me and helped me think.
I prayed and prayed.  I read devotional books.  I read and read and read everything "Christian" I could find on the problems I was facing.
Then one day in June last year, God spoke to me, and told me to start journaling my thoughts.  My sister had given me a beautiful journal for my birthday, so I got that out.  I had started a devotional box, and this journal went in it.  Writing has always been my outlet, and this was perfect, and God knew it, because he made me.  I began to pour out my grief, fears, troubles and pain in this journal. Sometimes, in the middle of the day, when I felt overwhelmed, I ran for it.   Sometimes I woke in the middle of the night and reached for it.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.  The comfort writing it all out provided me is indescribable.  The journal became my lifeline.  I craved it.  And as I wrote, pouring out my heart to the Lord, I began to "see".  God gave me a lot of insights into myself.  While my focus in the journal was still on me and my pain, as time passed, I began to write what I was learning, what I wanted my life to be like, and how I needed to change to bring these things about.

I began the journal in June of last year.  In the spring of this year, I knew the tide of my depression was turning.  God began to prompt me to reread parts of the journal each day when I wrote in it.  As I read it, I saw myself in the beginning, begging the Lord to return, begging him to "fix this", telling him I couldn't do this, this was more than I could take, to journal entries that thanked him for showing me the answer to this or that.  I saw all those problems, legal and financial and personal, get worked out, sometimes in what seemed like amazing ways.  I saw God work on "me", showing me my faults and flaws, and how to fix those things.  It's still not easy, and I still make many mistakes.  But little by little, I watched myself heal and not only heal, but grow.

At the end of June, during a devotional time, God told me to throw that journal away.  I protested.  I didn't want to throw it away.  It had made me sane again.  I wanted to keep it.  Then, God reminded me I would not live forever, and did I really want all that pain I had poured out to be read by someone else when I died?
Well, no I didn't, but I wasn't going to die anytime soon, right?  I could keep it a while longer, couldn't I?
God reminded me I did not have the promise of tomorrow.  Throw it away, he told me.

So I did.  I didn't want too, but I knew the Lord was right, and I tossed it into the dumpster.  I admit I went and looked at it in there a time or two, and thought about dragging it back out.  But I didn't. When the Lord speaks, we need to listen.  And I am still alive here a month later, but the trash men took my journal to the dump just a day or so after I threw it in.

So what am I trying to say here?  I am not sure.  Maybe I'm saying just because someone seems cheerful, if they have just gone through a terrible time, pray for them anyway.

And rather than posting your baggage on Facebook, take it to the Lord.  He is so faithful.  Lay your burdens at his feet, over and over and over again, until he lifts them, and you can breath again.  Pray and pray, and let God use the trials you are facing to perfect you.  Persevere.  He is there.  Keep knocking.  He has something to teach us in these terrible trials.

No, we will never be perfect until he comes again and swoops us up to heaven to live with him eternally, but we can sure be made better.

Fiery trials and the depression it brings with it happens to the best of us, the strongest of us, the most spiritual of us.  The Bible tells us we are not going to be spared.  But God wants to use those trials to make us stronger, mature and complete, not lacking in anything.  What I have learned the last 21 months is that these trials are what he uses to get our attention and help us grow.   Even when we want to scream "teach me what I need to learn quick so I can get this over with," sometimes the pain needs to last a while until he is done.  And then, he may have to do it again to teach us something else.

This earth is not heaven.  We have that waiting for us.  But God is there, and he is our strength and our song.