Digging out of depression; Defeating discouragement.

"For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.  But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more." II Corinthians 7: 5-7 In Seasons of a Mother's Heart, many years ago, I wrote a chapter about myself when I had been almost immobilized with a feeling of darkness. I was lying on my bed in the afternoon as the sun was going down and I had the thought that I wanted just to stay there and disappear into the darkness. I then thought, I hope no one in the house finds me. I still remember that day and a number of other times when I felt so discouraged in my life that I felt, for the moment, hopeless and defeated. I remember that in Anne of Green Gables, Marilla, the woman who adopted Anne, had said to her, "To despair is to turn your back on God." It always made me feel a little guilty, because I had felt despair many times in my life.Often, when a mom reads that chapter, she will say, "That is just how I feel!" And then, "It helped me to know that others had felt that way, too." Yet, I think, in reality, that if we are following God's will, difficulty and discouragement will be a regular part of our lives. 

I actually had to admit, that when I read the passage by Paul, in II Corinthians, about his being depressed, it made me feel better about myself--after all if Paul, the great hero of the faith, had been depressed, then maybe there was hope for me. I discovered that it is not a sin to be discouraged or depressed, but our response to it is what determines our long term well-being. 

God made me an idealist. I love the idea of life being romantic and everything turning out happily ever after. I would like to have raised my children in a g-rated world. I would have liked to have a perfect family and good support systems and a really good church fellowship to be a part of, and a Pollyanna community who reciprocated to me in friendship and fellowship and no financial stress or relationship stress or, or, or!

I think that this was the hardest thing for me over the years. I just wasn't expecting life to be so hard. I didn't know mothering would be so taxing. I didn't understand that the culture was going so post modern, in exactly the opposite direction than Clay and I were leading our family. I also didn't know or understand the constant work load and wasn't trained to do it. I wasn't prepared for real life--and that was one of the most common sources of my difficulty. 

It was sweet, though, to see that Paul said, "God comforts the depressed." I have also realized that it is so important for me to realize that God doesn't get some kind of perverted pleasure in watching His sweet children suffer. He is not a cosmic being that says, "Ok, now that you have decided to commit yourself to me to raise godly children, I am going to make your life just as hard for you as I can to punish you for seeking to be so godly." 

God is a loving Father, and just as we want our children to be happy and to see their lives blessed, so that is His will. After all, He made a perfectly beautiful garden as a place for His first children to live. He walked in this garden looking for their companionship and willing to give His unconditional love. During my quiet time this week, I noticed a phrase that was in the psalms several times, "Lovingkindness and truth go before thee."

Lovingkindess goes wherever God goes. He loves us and wants the best for us and He is the creator of happiness and joy. Yet, we are living in a very fallen world, in which most of the world, is in rebellion to God and His ways and as scripture says, the ruler of this world, Satan, is determined to devour us. Jesus said, "In this world, you have tribulation. But take courage, I have overcome the world." 

So the first thing I need to realize and acknowledge is that God is good and that He wants me to experience joy and happiness. That scares some people. They feel that there is such a distance between us and God that it is presumptuous for us to celebrate God's goodness. Yet, David rightly said, "In His presence is fullness of joy and in his right hand, pleasures evermore!" Evermore, yet! Pleasures it says! God created us to enjoy beauty, to feel happy in being loved, to accomplish great things, to sing deeply in our hearts, to laugh heartily at jokes, to enjoy eating great feasts and to enjoy warm, fluffy covers as we snuggle up on a cold winter's night. 

Yet, we are in a battle ground, where the booty is human allegiance and souls. Especially as moms, we are in a battle for our children's hearts. A battle is difficult, hard, challenging, and relentless and often deadly. So, understanding the nature of the battle is helpful. 

Yet, I can see that, in spite of the many seasons of depression and struggle, God had been faithful to me. He strengthened my hands, so to speak, in the midst of my trials and has increased my capacity to work. He stretched me and gave me more ability to be patient. He used these difficult times to mold me more into the image of Christ. The end result is, that little by little, I am becoming a person I always wanted to be, but it has happened in the midst of submitting to God's will, even in the midst of difficulties. 

Even a couple of weeks ago, I was momentarily caught in a many years old relationship in which I had been rejected and was being rejected one more time-which heralded me back to many such memories of such rejection. I was amazed at how quickly the darkness descended.

Yet, I decided that I didn't need to stay in that place and rehearse all the past hurts. But, I turned my heart to God and asked Him for perspective and to show me how to be thankful for His presence, truth and reality in the midst of it. He immediately helped me to see how he had used this in my life to really show me what it really looked like to be loving. He showed me how very grateful I had become for those in my life who really did love me and showed  love and loyalty to me. He reminded me how much I was able to understand other hurting women, because of my own past hurt, and how it had become a part of my ministry message to help others find a way out.  He gave me the freedom to understand that I could be happy and free, even if the unloving people in my life never changed--I was not responsible for their bad attitudes, but only to keep my own pure and free from bitterness. 

I also was prompted by the Holy Spirit to redeem the day. What could have been a bad day, spent trying to figure out the unloving person who often changed our plans and rejected us,  and left us in the lurch, turned into a sweet memory with my children. I then made a plan with my sweet girls, (we were on the road) and we enjoyed a great, memory making afternoon of going to an art museum and then discovering a great new Russian restaurant that served wonderful bread, European soup and strong tea out of glasses. We had such fun.

 I wouldn't have asked for these experiences, these difficulties, but because He is good, He used them for my benefit as I kept putting one foot in front of the other. It helped me to understand the Romans passage that says, "God causes all things to work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose." He will turn things out to work for our good, if we remain in His will, submitted to His purpose, determined to be overcomers. 

I am off to pick up Joy from a friend's house, so I will continue this article in a day or two and talk about what to do to crawl out of the place of depression and despair. Meanwhile, have a great afternoon!