During my last several quiet months of non-blogging I’ve enjoyed reading blogs by other pastor’s wives. One blog I connect with and am challenged by is called Painting in Words. Shannon writes a particular thread called 100 ways depression had made my life better. Although I prefer to complain about my depression, I do believe that this is an area in my life that God continues to redeem. Here’s my latest example.
This afternoon I led my first bible study at my new church. It’s bittersweet for me. The ladies I left in Chicago are so special to me. Bible study was where I gave and received real life. I miss them, but am trying to move where God is leading me.
At our new church I’m enjoying meeting people and learning to share life together. All the women in the group this afternoon are part of MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) at our church. We were talking about the program and how I’m looking forward to spending time with them… when I let it “slip” that life for me during that time in my life was not so happy.
After I shared my struggle a couple of ladies continued to ask me many, many questions. Now, I have no problem talking about depression, but I felt like I was giving TMI, especially for the first meeting! In my insecure head, I figured they were asking me questions because they wanted the “dirt” on the new pastor’s wife! But, God had other plans!
At the end of our meeting we prayed and said our goodbyes. One girl was hanging around and clearly wanted to talk. She thanked me for being open about my depression. Her own son was recently diagnosed with depression and just started on prozac. Can you even imagine? Here I was thinking I was the target of investigation when she was just searching for clues into what’s happening inside her son. Apparently by sharing my story I was able to give her a sense of peace and hope.
What an awesome opportunity! God is so good, so amazing. I am so thankful to be walking this path with Him. Just wish I could get over myself and get out of His way!!!
In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame… Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good. Ps 25:1-7
I assumed the obvious… teacher, wife, mother, friend, church-goer, etc…
I didn’t know my story would include descriptives like depressed, suicidal, angry, lonely, etc…
Blessed am I that my journey included pain. Without pain there is no growth. There is no digging deep or root development.
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matt 5:3-5,8, The Message)
For me, writing has become a part of my healing. Which is why I came back to blogging when life changed so drastically this May. Writing is a place of reflection, of turning inward and then pouring out the results.
Writing also is an avenue to hear God’s voice. Not as a rule. But sometimes He visits me in-between the lines. I’ll be reflecting on a thought and then the pen will continue to write with new and beautiful words that I know didn’t come from my mind! I try to write as fast as I can to keep up with Him so that I don’t miss a single sentence!
Because writing is a process of healing, a place of reflection, I crave space to create. In my current situation there are very few quiet moments within a given day. I’m missing my writing time. But I know soon enough I’ll have my own space, my own quiet place… and the pen will be ready!
How did you come to writing? What is writing to you?
A familiar face appears in the distance. Eye contact is made. “Oh good,” thinks the man, “someone to help!” But the familiar face shamefully smiles and walks on past.
Several miles later a car pulls up and stops. Caring friend gets out and asks if the man wants a ride. The man explains his depressing load that must come along. Caring friend remembers the important meeting he must attend and promises to check back later. The man never hears from caring friend again.
The load gets too much to bear. The man sits hopelessly.
Total stranger appears from behind the man. The stranger recognizes the load, picks up the heaviest part and encourages the man to continue his journey. “Why?” asks the man, “You don’t even know me!” Total stranger replies, “I may not know you, but I recognize the load. Someone helped me once and now I’m here to help you.”
Gal 6:1-3: Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
Today I’m starting to come up out of the fog engulfing me. So thankful to Jesus for continuing to keep His presence close and known. I hear Him beckoning me to believe. Not just for salvation, but believe that He loves. My head says I know Jesus loves me. But my heart questions why. And my soul wonders if I truly understand.
I feel the Spirit, praying this scripture over my life, For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (eph 3:14-19)
I wish I could grasp it, to take hold of it, to really know it in the bottom of my soul. But the text says before we can understand the width, heighth and depth we need to get rooted and established in Christ’s love.
Interesting that Paul uses the word root. Think of the work, endurance, growth that happens underneath the soil for the most beautiful of plants. The same is true with us. And, although, I can not find where Paul says this in the text, I believe that he would agree that root work happens in trials of life. The struggles in our life help lay the foundation – strengthens the basement of our souls.
- Rom 8:35-37: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long;we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
- 2 Cor 1:5: For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
- Phil 1:29-30: For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
- YOUR TURN! What scripture would you add here?
Paul writes a lot about his struggles. I believe he spent a lot of hours dwelling in the basement. Not moaning or complaining, but abiding in the presence of Christ within his hardship. Paul’s writing illuminates the darkness around while giving glory to the One doing the excavating our souls, preparing us to understand. May we grow to appreciate Christ’s deep love for us.
I might be people-phobic! I was with too many people yesterday! Around 8pm I totally checked out. I should have gone directly to bed. But instead I stayed up and yelled at anyone who dared glance or speak to me!
Today I’m suffering the aftermath. I’m on the verge of tears. It’s raining inside.
I felt like I was just coming out of the fog… and then – BOOM! My face hit the wall! One day up, next day down. This is so typical of depression! Can I get a witness? Anyone?
But the Lord did not hide His face from me. He is with me on the jagged path. This scripture was brought to mind today:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:1-7)
I especially connect with vs 4 – “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.” Isn’t that beautiful and inviting?
Here’s what Matthew Henry’s commentary says of verse 4:
God’s word and ordinances are rivers and streams with which God makes his saints glad in cloudy and dark days. God himself is to his church a place of broad rivers and streams, Isa.33:21. The streams that make glad the city of God are not rapid, but gentle, like those of Siloam. Note, The spiritual comforts which are conveyed to the saints by soft and silent whispers, and which come not with observation, are sufficient to counterbalance the most loud and noisy threatenings of an angry and malicious world.
God’s knows our need friends. His word IS sufficient and it CAN combat our internal struggles. The streams of the Lord will counterbalance an overbearing world. Let us open ourselves to His inner and external work in our lives!
Psalm 31:1, 24 (AMP): In You, O Lord, do I put my trust and seek refuge; let me never be put to shame or [have my hope in You] disappointed; deliver me in Your righteousness! Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!
What are your expectations of the Lord today?
For the person suffering this can be a tricky question.
I found myself yesterday rediscovering hope. Which, of course, is great! It felt like one of lead blankets holding down my body peeled off.
The only problem though - my hope was based on change in circumstance. And that’s not true hope. Hebrews 11 gives a nice definition of faith and also highlights hope, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hope and faith can trust even when the results remain unseen.
Regardless of where my hope came from I am thankful! The hope steered my study this morning to Psalm 31. The verses above caught my attention, especially in the Amplified version. During a depression battle I find myself expecting the next day to be worse, expecting things to never change. With depression one feels hopeless, worthless and an overall bleakness. Instead of fighting the depression it’s easier to give in and believe that life is worth nothing. But verse 24 of Psalm 31 encourages the heart to hope. Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord! I heard, “Don’t give up Shane. Don’t give in. It’s ok to hope. I have this handled. Keep expecting good things from me. I don’t disappoint.”
However, I commonly hear the negative tapes playing over and over in my head, discouraging me, saying “aim low, there’s no disappointment there.” But walking in faith requires a positive voice. A new filter for the negative tone. A Godly voice whispering (not demanding), encouraging, “take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
I have a spiral notebook of index cards filled with scripture I want to memorize. It sits in my tote bag pocket. I take it out when I find another scripture to work on. Today I’ll add another… Psalm 31. But instead of putting it back in its snug pocket I’m going to leave it out, where I can see it and learn it and live it!
Whatever you may be struggling with today, God’s Word can overcome. We can expect hope. We can triumph over pain. Feeding the soul is so important. How can we best keep our God-filter engaged? What are you doing today to stay encouraged?
Very few understand. Very few will walk along side.
For me, depression is an opportunity to relinquish all. Anything. Everything to the Lord. It’s a training ground for God to prepare me for the next phase.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130)
Eugene Peterson, translator of “The Message” and author of “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” writes this about Psalm 130 and suffering:
By setting the anguish out in the open and voicing it as a prayer, the psalm gives dignity to our suffering. It does not look on suffering as something slightly embarrassing that must be hushed up and locked in a closet (where it finally becomes a skeleton) because this sort of thing shouldn’t happen to a real person of faith. And it doesn’t treat it as a puzzle that must be explained, and therefore turn it over to theologians or philosophers to work out an answer. Suffering is set squarely, openly, passionately before God. It is acknowledged and expressed. It is described and lived.
Oh, thank you Lord for hearing my prayer of pain. I know that you do not waste any pain. I believe Lord that my suffering will find purpose and will be redeemed. Thank you Lord for working in my life even when I do not see your presence. Forgive me Father for not trusting. Give me an extra measure of faith through this process. In your Son’s redemptive name, Amen
P.S. Thank you for your prayers and suggestions from “I was robbed” post. I have a couple of good resources that are helping me cope with my current insecurities. One thing that has ALWAYS helped me in this area is Ps 139. Watching a rerun of Dr. Oz I saw an incredible interview of Tyra Banks. She explained when she was feeling low her mother instructed her to go into the bathroom, look at herself in the mirror, and not come out until she found something that she liked. Now, couple that thought with the psalmist’s phrase “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” and you have a dynamic prescription for new-found security in Christ.
Someone came in and stole all my security.
I’m left with nothing but shame and a down-cast spirit.
I caught the thief.
That should be a relief, right?
Not when it’s my own mind.
Away from the security of home and familiar people and setting, I’ve become defined by first impressions. I don’t recall a time when appearances were this important to me. Ok, maybe my first day in high school.
Um, excuse me, that was 20 yrs ago… haven’t you grown up yet?
I used to be able to walk into church with a pair of jeans and a nice top and really not care what anyone thinks. But, today I find myself trying on multiple outfits, weighing options, and not being happy with the results.
The kids got home from school today and looked at me and knew something was wrong. I looked sad, dejected, didn’t want to engage in conversation, was on the edge of tears. Then it dawned on me. I have two girls who are learning about their own bodies. These are definitive years for them. What do they know about their mom’s body image? She worries about her underwear lines showing. She’s always asking “Do I look fat in this?” She doesn’t like people bringing ice cream into the house. She is often on a new diet. So, when my 11 yr old says ridiculous things like “I hate myself” who do I have to blame? Don’t I say those same things inside my own mind? I’ve taught her well.
2 Cor 5:16-17: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Col 3:1-4: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
These two verses mean so much to me. I could teach on these verses for hours! The power of Christ’s love transforming us into new creations is just amazing. I truly have been changed in Christ. But apparently my brain has not connected this change to my physical body. I still view myself based on my pant size, the scale number and a hollow silhouette. When I see the thousand images online, on sceen, or on paper, I subconsciously think that I’m not enough.
Enough is enough!
I’ve caught the thief. Now, what do I do with her?
It’s time for real transformation… even in the midst of an insecure transition.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7
I am so thankful for light. Since the family move my temporary bedroom is the basement. It’s great. It’s an apartment all on its own. The only problem is there is no natural light. So, after everyone leaves for the day I could stay down there for hours without knowing what time it is and sleep the day away. (doesn’t do so well for the depression)
Yesterday during a study time with the Lord, God shed His light on a word. I was reading over yesterday’s passage, “I am the vine, you are the branches…” from John 15. The word that started jumping off the page for me was remain. John 15:4 Remain in me; vs5 If you remain in me; vs9 Now remain in my love. The phrase “remain in my love” really hit home for me. I had a picture of “bathing” in Christ’s love, “basking” in His presence. So I did a word study on remain.
The word remain in this (John 15) context can also be translated to abide. Abide in the original Greek means several things… (1) to wait for, (2) to endure without yielding, (3) to bear patiently: tolerate, (4) to accept without objection, (5) to remain stable, (6) to continue in a place.
Those definitions really struck me.
How much complaining have I done during this transition?
How inpatient have I been?
How much have I accepted but with MANY objections?
With this new-found word picture I reread the text. Immediately verse 4 struck me to the core “Remain in me, as I also remain in you“
How much has the Lord endured from me?
How wonderful that He accepts me without objection!
He is stable when I am insecure.
He remains with me, even when I wonder.
Spend some time today reading over scripture. Pick a text, maybe use one the links above and just read. See what God illuminates for you today.
Heavenly Light Source, thank you for your abiding love. Thank you for your patient endurance with me. Lord I am humbled by your call. I see where I fail. Help me Lord where I am weak. Let your light shine through my weakness so others may see your love. Allow your light in me touch others for your glory. Give me a desire to search for truth in your Word that more light may be found. Amen
I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. John 15:1-8 (The Message)
A few years ago when my husband and I were in the midst of serious marital warfare, we walked into Starbucks to grab a coffee. The girl behind the counter knew us and asked how we were doing. It was obvious on our faces, and we aren’t very good at masking the truth, so we honestly reported “not so good.” She quickly took our order and said she’d pray for us. A few moments later as we were getting into the car she came running out of the store yelling for us. She grabbed ahold of our shoulders and said “God is pruning you right now so that you will be able to bear greater fruit in the future.” I was shocked that God had given her that Word so quickly and I fell into her arms crying!
Since that day John 15 holds such a personal message to me. If you read yesterday’s post, you know that my family is in a transition. At this time, we see God pruning again. I guess it’s gardening season! Pruning never feels good. It’s not something you ask for. Not something you desire. However, the end result is always rich and sweet due to the pruning pathway.
When God wants to make changes in our lives, and we’re willing to let Him, He starts by cutting away all that is unnecessary. In this process, He strips from us everything that could hinder our future growth, in order to prepare us to bring forth good fruit. Our life may look barren during that time, but God is actually freeing us from anything that does not bring forth life. This process of surrendering all to the Lord, especially our dreams and desires, is called pruning. (Stormie Omartian, Just Enough Light For The Step I’m On)
Heavenly Gardener, I am so humbled (and hurt) by your pruning. Help me to see your greater purpose. Thank you for the promise that when we are at home with you the harvest will be abundant and that we can be sure our requests our acted upon. Show us all Lord how you are acting on our behalf today. I love you Lord. Amen.