I’m taking a different route today. Lately I’ve been sharing with you all the stuff I’ve been learning about the Bible and the nature of God. My time with Jesus has been so rich that I just had to share it!
Which is why this took me by surprise. This sense of despair and angst. Nothing was going horribly wrong, but I found myself not being able to cope with the normal stresses of life. Again. I’ve written before about my first real fight with depression, and how, by God’s grace, I was able to come out of that.
“But this shouldn’t happen again.”
“You know what the issue is now, it shouldn’t surprise you.”
“You have the tools, you must not be using them right.”
“Surely you’re a stronger person than this.”
These are the things that were being screamed in my head, by none other than the self-destructive part of my own nature. And I found myself listening to them. Suddenly, I convinced myself that I would never be a good enough wife, step-mom, church member, or employee. These kind of thoughts have a trickle down effect. Or sometimes trickle up. Whichever way it was trickling, I was feeling like a failure in the most important roles of my life, all the way down to how I unloaded the dishwasher. Yes, you heard me right. I literally had the thought “Someone else would have put the forks in the right spot the first time…it took you three times to get it right. Geesh.”
Most sane people read this and realize how irrational this train of thinking is. And they’d be absolutely correct. It’s a bunch of foolishness. How efficiently I can put away clean forks is not really important. But it’s a convincing line of foolishness that the devil loves to use on us. And he’s good. He sneaks it in where it seems the most believable, where we’ll listen to it. It’s a ‘give a mouse a cookie’ kind of plan. Eventually, becoming so loud that it’s all we hear.
How did it happen, though? I was studying God’s Word, developing a better prayer life, killing it at work, getting stronger and running farther, keeping the house clean, paying off debt. I was doing well. I was happy and fulfilled. Stresses came, and I dealt with them so much better than I did two years ago.
I think it’s the little things. A few mornings of choosing sleep over time in the Bible, swearing I’d work it in later in the day. My regular spiritual diet was disrupted. Then I hurt my back, limiting my exercise options. Even as I write, I’m icing my back…the amusement park this week was a lot! This was discouraging, so I started eating junk, and then the pounds came back. Then I just felt fat. It’s a vicious cycle that broke the things that work in my life.
So what do we do when we end up here? Even if you don’t struggle with depression, you struggle with something. The devil knows what lies to tell me, and he can custom fit lies to your and your weaknesses.
There is hope, I promise. Sometimes it’s a journey back from where you swore you wouldn’t go, but there is a path out. Just a week ago, I just wanted to come home and sleep, just quiet the noise in my head. But it crept into my dreams, so even sleep wasn’t satisfying.
And today, I’m still a little bit overwhelmed and working to discern lies from truths to make sure I’m listening to the right ones. But it’s better. God’s again been gracious, and I want share two tips and a big truth that have been helpful this week.
Tip #1- Talk to a trusted, godly friend. Just this past week, I’ve shot two dear friends of mine a text to simply say ‘Please pray for me, I’m struggling.’ These are people I trust with my deepest hurts, and they both were quick to respond, not with judgement, but with encouragement and hope. It’s scary, but a shared load is a lot lighter.
Tip #2- Do the things you know to do. Those habits we form are oh-so important. You don’t have to come up with some new fix, just do what’s worked before. Whatever that thing is, do it. The chiropractor told me I can’t run right now, and I really badly want to. So today I got on an elliptical and did three miles. Not my favorite, but it was something. Don’t clap too loudly- I did come home and eat half a bag of chips tonight.
So get up a little bit earlier. Take that walk. Read the book you keep pushing aside. Turn off the TV. The devil wants you to quit, so prove him wrong.
Truth- Know who you are and where you true strength lies. This is so important, to whatever your struggle is. God showed this to me in two ways this past week. One was in a text from a friend. Her words jumped off the screen at me “Satan finds the hole (in your armor) and he can worm his way in, just remember he cannot enter without your permission.”
Wait. You mean I can say no? That was so empowering to me. To know that as a loved child of God, I can use His power to say no to the devil. Tell him he’s not allowed in here. I’m taken. God is so much bigger than depression, addiction, marriage trouble, jealousy, and any other of the devil’s mouse-cookie schemes. And I am His.
The same message came at me from a much older source, from the great Charles Spurgeon. I love reading his works. I’m a little bit jealous of his eloquent way with words, but I love him because he gets it. He struggled with depression and God used him mightily to save thousands, and also to minister to those around him who struggled like he did. He had similar things to say about how God feels about His children:
“….love so amazing, which could pay a price so stupendous, would not easily loose its hold of that which it has thus purchased unto itself. We think little of ourselves, when we value ourselves at anything less than the price which Jesus paid; we dishonour the Lord which bought us, if we think ourselves only fit to live unto the flesh, and this poor temporary world; when, indeed, we are fitted for a heavenly world, and for the divinest purposes…”*
If God almighty thinks that much of me, maybe it’s OK that the forks fall in the knives slot in the drawer. Maybe it’s OK if someone stops by the house and there are dirty dishes in the sink. Maybe it’s OK if don’t make the right parenting decision every time. Maybe, just maybe, there’s grace for these things. Because God paid an awfully big price for my soul, and He doesn’t have any intention of letting go of it.
So today, know it’s OK to not be OK. We are headed out on family vacation next week, and I’m a nervous wreck. I’ve not done a family vacation with kids before (welcome to blended family life!), and I’m overthinking every little piece of it. But I’m less anxious over it today than I was a week ago, or even yesterday. I’m reminding myself that this family will not fall apart because I forgot to pack a tooth brush. The drug stores in Michigan have toothbrushes just like the ones in Kentucky. It will all be fine.
Take a moment and just rest in your weaknesses, because You’ve got a God who is more than strong enough to hold you up. As Spurgeon said:
“There is no height of grace, no attainment of spirituality, no position or assurance, no post of duty, which is not open to you, if you have but the power to believe. Get ye up, get ye up from your dunghills; lay aside your sackcloth and your ashes. It is not meet that ye should grovel in the dust, oh children of a king.”**
Bright Day Dark Nights, by Elizabeth Ruth Skoglund, page 49* and page 51**