I feel that I have had a life-changing revelation on this battle I have been having with depression.
In the past, I felt that depression was either a demon I had to war against or a frightening storm I needed to hide from. For the past few years, when the waves would roll in, I would take up one of these stances: ready to fight or ready to cower. The thing is, neither of them worked. Both of these approaches left me tumbled in the stormy seas, unable to breathe or figure out which way was up or down.
This past weekend, I had a new revelation on my journey through this dark time. Perhaps, I am not meant to run or fight, but to keep walking. What if the victory is in the journey. Churchill famously said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.”
If we think of all of those epics and adventure stories we have read or watched, the characters keep going. There wouldn’t be much to the story if they would have just stayed in the same place every time things got hard.
Spurgeon said, “there is no university for a Christian, like that of sorrow and trial.” Maybe instead of trying to figure out how to stop the pain, I can figure out how I can grow through it. Surprise Sithole posted this picture on Facebook last week that seems to sum it up:
There is no epic or adventure without the character going through dark times, and these stories are based on the reality of human experience. We all have hard times. My question now is, “what will I do with mine?”
One thing that all of this has taken off of the table, for me, is the thought of suicide. Sometimes, when the heartache or numbness gets so bad, death has been a very welcoming thought. This revelation, however, has changed all of that. What if there is a purpose in this pain? What if those heroes of the stories killed themselves? Their stories would have been over, their journeys incomplete, and other lives would be hurt in some way. No, the heroes keep going.
I am not a hero, but I do have a life. I have been able to do some good in it. My mom told me that I need to think about every person I have touched, everyone I have helped. Most of the people I have been able to encourage are those who are walking through a pain I had walked through at some point. What if all of this will enable me to help someone who is walking through it later? Then my story and the pain would have been worth it.
So, I accept the pain. I will walk through the darkness. I will not give up.
Looking at tornado pictures from the past week has been gut-wrenching. It is heartbreaking to think of all of the lives that were lost or significantly impacted as the destroying tornadoes ripped through the land. Sometimes people do not see the tornado itself. In those cases, it is categorized according to the destruction left behind.
Just as one can look for evidence of a tornado, one can also look for evidence that there is a destroying presence wreaking havoc with the lives of people. Jesus tells us that Satan’s purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10, English Standard Version). Anytime we see the evidence of these things (destruction) in someone’s life, we can be assured that the destroyer has been there.
The good part of the story is that there is a second half to what Jesus said, in which Jesus said, “BUT I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
As I was walking through depression, I did not understand the second half of this verse. I saw plenty of evidence that the destroyer was around, but was not seeing the abundant life part. For years, I struggled with the darkness, feeling wholly swallowed by it. This went on until I realized that the second half of John 10:10 cannot happen unless I would allow it to happen. In the spiritual world, we have something much better than even an early warning system—we have the same Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11).
I knew all of these things but did not understand how they could be a reality in my life. I believe that the key lies in two portions of scripture:
“I call Heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).
Yes, Jesus came so we could have abundant life, but no matter how much He wants us to have it unless we receive it from him, we will walk in darkness. As I meditated on these things, I realized that I had a responsibility in my emotional health. Yes, Jesus provided me with life, but I REALIZED I WAS CHOOSING DEATH!
How was I choosing death? Why would I choose death over life? The answers came through my thinking. Guarding my heart means that I will not allow Satan to have a foothold into my life. I did not do a good job at this—at all. Through my thinking, I would enable satan in to wreak whatever destruction he wanted, and yes, there was much destruction.
Here is an example: When my husband would do something that hurt me, I had an authentic life-or-death choice at that moment. Before I realized my part of this story, I would always choose death. Instead of inviting God into the situation and giving Him by burdens to carry (Psalm 55:22), I would hold on to them.
The seduction is that holding onto our burdens feels good for a little bit. I was wronged, correct? I have a right to be upset! This attitude causes us to abandon our post and leaves our hearts wide open for the enemy to come it. Even meditating on my wrongs for a short time was enough for the enemy to bring waves of depression crashing through my soul.
It took me a long time to realize that all of the destruction in my life was really my own fault. Yes, I had been hurt in the past, but that does not mean I am supposed to live as a victim now. Yes, I was rejected in the past, but that does not give me a right to be bitter now.
These things are temptations designed to crush us. Once the door is opened, we will continue to wallow in the filth of death until it brings death and destruction into the lives of us and those around us. This is the evidence that the “tornado” was there: forgiveness, bitterness, fights, absence of love, depression, anxiety, heartache, separation…
I listed forgiveness first because I feel it is a crucial part of heart guarding duties. Once I painted a picture of what forgiveness looks like:
God showed me, through the painting, that forgiveness releases light into the darkness. The darkness is actually in our hearts because unforgiveness keeps God out of our hearts. Any place where God is kept out becomes dark. This is the darkness that turns people bitter and destroys lives. There is a reason that Jesus says we are supposed to forgive each person who offends us 490 times a day!
Even the ancient Hawaiians knew the importance of forgiveness, which was seen in their ceremony called Ho’oponopono. When a person was sick, they would go to the priest. The priest would lead them through a service where they would forgive people they were withholding forgiveness from. This was because the Hawaiian people saw that there was a physical link between forgiveness and health of the body (and vice versa).
Corrie Ten Boom often talked about the importance of forgiveness in her writings. If she could forgive those who imprisoned her, can I not forgive those who have offended me? She said that it was essential to remember that forgiveness is like casting out burden into a deep lake where there is a no fishing sign.
When we go fishing and mull over these things in our minds, we are opening the door, once more, for the enemy to bring destruction into our hearts. When this happens, it will turn us from
Sméagol to Gollum
THIS IS NOT ABUNDANT LIFE! It may feel good at the moment, but it is nothing more than a trap to destruction.
Our lives have a meaning and purpose that is more important than temporal self-pity, anger, depression, etc. As believers and followers of Christ, our lives are intertwined with His will. We step into His eternal purposes when we say yes to Him; He is our life and to do His will is our destiny. Scripture tells us that “by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16, English Standard Version). This is the place where thinking about being a Christian must begin. Christians are not here for worldly purposes. To be a Christian who is self-focused is an oxymoron because, as a Christian, you “exist only because God wills that you exist. You were made by God and for God—and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It’s only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny” (Warren, 2012, p.22). As Christ-followers, we are told to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17, English Standard Version). The question set before a Christian is, therefore, “how can the position of leadership I have glorify God by fulfilling His desires for the earth? The answer is as old at the beginning of the creation of mankind. Adam and Eve were tasked to “take care of God’s ‘stuff’ on earth. This role has never been rescinded. It is a part of our purpose today” (Warren, 2012, p.47). Our life-purpose is intimately intertwined with the plans of God upon the earth. When given a leadership position, the purpose of that position is to fulfill God’s purposes in that area. When Christians step into Heaven, they “will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well [they] handled what God entrusted to [them]. That means that everything [a Christian does] …has eternal implications” (Warren, 2012, p.48).
The Apostle Paul admonishes us to “not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness]” (Ephesians 4:27, Amplified Version).
Its time to take our lives back from the thief. Do not allow him any room to bring destruction to your hearts, lives, emotions, families, or friends! Do not give him any room to move in your life! Put on the armor and stand guard at the entrance to the heart. If any stray thoughts come, ask, “is this life or death?” IF ITS DEATH, CAST IT AT THE FEET OF JESUS and move on! Its time we take “every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
Commit to standing fast.
Do it for Jesus!
Do it for your health (physical, mental, and emotional)!
Do it for your families!
Do it for those who do not know Christ’s love!
Do it because time is short!
Do it so that nothing will hinder you from hearing, “well done” at the end and beginning!
Warren, R. (2012). The Purpose Driven Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.