Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Tag: overcoming

How a Rock Helped My Depression

I have a history of depression.

There, I said it.

Admitting this hasn’t always been easy for me. In fact, for a long time I was in flat-out denial. I wasn’t depressed, I was just tired, or stressed, or just dealing with a lot. Or it was hormones, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or all of the above. But I was never the D-word. How could I be? I had Jesus. You can’t have Jesus and still be depressed.

Except that you actually can. And — hear me now — it doesn’t make you a bad Christian.

I didn’t finally acknowledge my depression until after my two miscarriages and the unexpected loss of both of my in-laws happened in fairly rapid succession. It wasn’t until then that I finally acknowledged I was dealing with something more than just grief and exhaustion. I was ready to call the sense of joyless numbness and hopelessness I’d been carrying around for months what it was. I admitted that I was depressed, and that I needed to deal with it. And that’s when I started to heal.

That’s also when I learned that you can’t confront something that you’re not willing to acknowledge, and you can’t claim victory over something you’re not willing to name.

Since then, God’s brought me a long way in my battle against depression. So far that I can stand up and proclaim myself healed. But that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t try to creep up on me from time to time, and that it’s not a real battle when it does.

But before I can do battle, I have to acknowledge the true nature of my enemy.

Recently, it started creeping back in, and instead of naming and confronting it, I denied it and hoped it would go away, even though I knew better. On top of feeling depressed, I also felt guilty. God has answered prayer for us this year in a big and positive way! We’re right where I spent years praying to be! How could I be depressed? How could I be anything other than full of joy and gratitude?

But it went on long enough that I knew I had to look it in the face. Just to be sure, one night a couple of weeks ago I took an online assessment, expecting it to say that I was mildly depressed. Instead it said that I was showing signs of moderate to severe depression. I knew I needed to deal with it before it got worse–because that’s all it ever does if you try to ignore it.

I started praying about it immediately. I confessed my depression, and all of my negative thoughts and fears, and the things I was feeling hopeless about. And I confessed my guilt over feeling depressed when He’s been so good to me this year.

That’s when He helped me realize what was already plain to Him: that we are complicated creations with complex brains and emotions, and we are perfectly capable of being sad and depressed about some things while still being grateful about something else. I went to sleep that night, feeling a little more at peace.

The next morning I was still struggling, though. Now, I’ve learned that God is the best therapist out there. Not only does He listen, but He can change my thinking. He can even change my circumstances, but if He doesn’t, He can still change my outlook on my circumstances.

So I got out my journal, and I wrote down everything in my life that I felt was contributing to my depression. And I prayed and gave each of them to God. And as I did, I looked deeper. The things I’d written down were circumstantial, but they all spoke to a deeper longing that was still unmet in my life, one that I’d started to believe would never be met.

By now I felt like I needed to go walk so I could really pour my heart out to God. So I walked, and I prayed, and I confessed and asked questions, and when I was done walking I went up to the bluff and just sat there, looking out at the lake and the hills beyond, and I just let God love on me for a little while. And I realized then that I had been looking in the wrong place to fulfill that deeper longing. That it already had its perfect fulfillment in Him.

I also realized that I’d been carrying burdens and responsibilities that didn’t belong to me. So I repented for trying to do God’s job, and admitted that I was far, far too weak to carry these things, and that I needed Him to take them from me.

And as I prayed and cast my cares on Him, I picked up a rock that lay at my feet and threw it off the cliff as hard and as far as I could.

Y’all, I know how hokey that sounds. But that tangible feeling of casting something heavy far away from me made it feel more real, and when I was done I felt so much lighter and full of peace.

It took a few more days of staying in prayer and in the Word, closely guarding my heart and mind and refusing to pick any of those weights back up off of His altar, but I’m doing better. My hope and my joy have been restored, and I’m enjoying life again.

I’m not saying that this is a simple thing. It’s certainly not as simple as picking up a rock and throwing it off a cliff. I know that sometimes depression keeps you from even being able to pray, let alone hike up to a cliff to start tossing rocks around. But God does care for you and you can claim victory over and healing from depression. I’m not saying it won’t be a battle, and that it won’t involve a lot of steps. But the first step is to acknowledge it and call it what it is. The second is to call on Him for help. And He will help you. Even if all you have the strength to do at first is to whisper his name. 

No Matter What Anybody Says, You Are Beloved

his-workmanship

The day after I posted my last blog post was a bad day. I woke up hormonal, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the things I alluded to in that post, and I became hurt and angry all over again. Angry at the enemy, angry at all the people he used to hurt me, angry at God for allowing all of that stuff to happen. It was an anger and a sadness I couldn’t shake, no matter how much I tried to cry it out or pray it away.

The day after that, hormones settled down and I wasn’t quite so emotional. That morning, we listened to a weekly Bible lesson.

My husband and I don’t attend a local church–we have a list of reasons and excuses about as long as my arm, and I know most of it is probably stuff we should just get over–but instead we connect online to a home church down in Dallas, run by family friends of Matt’s. Usually it’s a live broadcast, on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings, although we usually watch Thursday night’s session on Friday morning because we’re old and tired and we can’t stay up that late on a weeknight. A live broadcast had been scheduled for that particular Thursday, but when the time came, the pastor fell ill, so they aired a replay of an old lesson instead.

Now I’m not saying that God made the pastor sick just so they’d play that lesson for me, but it’s funny how God uses these things sometimes. The lesson they chose to play that week was, as it turned out, exactly what I needed to hear that morning, when I was in just the right frame of mind to receive it.

The lesson was on the second chapter of 1Peter, and what stood out to me was verse 23:

“[Jesus] who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed to Him who judges righteously.”

The Greek word translated here as “revile” means to verbally abuse. The day before, I’d been stewing over all of the verbal and emotional abuse I’d been subjected to growing up. How could grown up people be so awful to an innocent little kid?

And now here was Peter talking about Jesus, “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth” (verse 22), the one person who was truly innocent, who was even less deserving of the abuse and cruelty that was heaped upon Him, and how He endured it patiently because He knew it was all lies.

Jesus knew those people didn’t know what they were talking about, that they were just tools of the enemy, meant to destroy Him, or at least to wear Him down and take the fight out of Him. He knew that the only One who had a right to judge Him was also the only One who truly knew Him, and knew the whole truth about Him.

Everything clicked into place as I heard that, like a switch got flipped on my perspective. It’s the same for me. All those people who abused me and called me names, who made me feel worthless and rejected — they were jut tools that the enemy used to convince me that I don’t matter, that I’m ineffectual and useless and unwanted, to wear me down, crush my spirit and take all the fight out of me.

But the One who judges me righteously — the only One who has a right to judge me — knows better. He knows me, and what I’m capable of, because He made me. People put all kinds of negative labels on me growing up, but the only names and labels that matter are the ones He gives me. And He calls me Chosen. Beloved. His workmanship. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Created for good works.

His child.

So who, then, am I going to believe?

My dear, sweet sister in Christ, who are YOU going to believe?

Love,

Jean

 

 

 

 

PS – Linking up this week with Holley Gerth’s Coffee For Your Heart, Missional Women’s Faith Filled Friday, and the Faith Barista.

When Faith-Crushing Doubt Slips In

Worry does nothing to help. It only destroys peace and makes things worse.

It’s been a trying couple of weeks here in the Bauhaushold. It all started a couple of weeks ago when we went to visit my mom. Actually, scratch that–it really started a few days before that, when I had a hard time getting people to provide what I needed to complete a freelance writing assignment with an impending deadline. Right there was when I started to give in to worry and let the enemy steal my peace.

By the end of the work week I had asked for and received a deadline extension, and I sighed a big sigh of relief and turned my attention to getting ready for a day at my mom’s out by the lake. I thought it would be just the break I needed to restore my equilibrium and get back my peace.

And it was a lovely break. It was a gorgeous fall day that included a stop at the lake to take in the scenery and let our dog explore, visiting with family, driving in to my home town to eat Chinese food, and exploring my old stomping grounds where I grew up. It was a perfect day in practically every way.

The trouble is that it was a little too perfect, and it left me full of longing and homesickness and despair at being stuck here in the city. My mom has a beautiful vacant lot next door to the house I grew up in, which she’s started to talk about selling, and it’s so easy for me to envision Matt and I building our dream home there–something that would be impossible without God doing something huge.

Once we were back home in the city, surrounded by air and noise pollution and crime, rather than having my peace restored by our visit, discontentment settled like a weight on my chest, and I became fixated on the idea of buying that property and building a home there. Rather than giving it to God and trusting that if that was part of His plan for us He’d make it happen–and if not, that He has something even better for us in store–I became obsessed with finding my own solution, researching and developing strategies for downsizing and even asking God to help me convince my husband to see the brilliance of my plan.

Thankfully, after a few days of being completely preoccupied with this obsession, the Lord pulled me up short (and He wisely did so before I brought it up to my husband). He began to show me the downside of my plan, and also to help me see that I was on the verge of letting that piece of property become an idol in my life. I knew I needed to pray and not only completely surrender this new dream to Him, but also to confess my lack of trust and gratitude for what I already have.

I did so, and I thought that was the end of my struggles. But while this was going on I was also continuing to have a hard time finding an agreeable interview subject for my article. I had to ask for a second deadline extension, and I knew a third wouldn’t be an option. Time was running out, and instead of praying and trusting that things would work out, I prayed and then proceeded to worry and fret and let my nerves become frazzled.

Even so, God was faithful to come through for me, providing an excellent interviewee right at the last minute. I got my article finished and turned in, and then I sat back and thought about how I’d been falling into old patterns that I had thought were a thing of the past, and I became filled with shame. Again I prayed and repented, asking God to help me be the sort of believer whose faith is strengthened by pressure instead of crushed by it.

And then the next day, this new regular writing job, that I believed had been an answer to prayer, dumped a big load of uncertainty in my lap when the lead editor announced that they were changing their focus (from pets to parenting) and expressed concern that I might no longer be a good fit*. I pleaded my case with the editor, but then didn’t hear back from her, and with urgent needs piling up faster than money was coming in, I really needed to keep this job. Having apparently not completely grasped the lessons of my previous recent stumbles, I again struggled with worry.

I wasn’t a total failure this time, though, because I realized right away that I needed to surrender this to God and trust in His provision. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, though. But as I prayed my way through it and turned to scripture, I figured out a few things. One, that worry does nothing to help the situation. It only destroys peace and makes things worse. Two, that although there are times when God allows things to go wrong in our lives in order to instruct us and turn us back toward Him, other times things start to go wrong because we are exactly where we’re supposed to be and doing what we’re supposed to do–and that makes the enemy nervous. So we come under attack in an effort to throw us off and get us to slip up.

Although I’ve definitely been in the former situation, I believe this time it was the latter. I believe that prior to my first slip up I was right where God wanted me. I had committed to trusting Him and His plan, and to waiting for Him to orchestrate the details of my life, and good things were coming of that. I had peace, for one thing, and I was content in my own home, and beginning to see amazing provision–like this writing job that had just dropped into my lap without my even looking for it. But the enemy used that job to get me to doubt all of that and fall back into old patterns of unbelief, and I allowed it to happen.

No more. A few days ago I started refusing to believe the enemy’s lies, and renewed my commitment to trusting and waiting, and not rushing around to try and solve these problems by my own power. That same day, as if to confirm that I was back on the right track, a graphic popped up in my Facebook feed from Holley Gerth, displaying Psalm 37:7:

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

So that’s what I’m doing. And I’m happy to say that, although the pressure’s still on, I’ve got my equilibrium back, and I’m once again at peace and content to be where God wants me.

*I’m also happy to say that, as I was writing this post, I was given new assignments for my writing job. God’s provision comes through once again. So the next time I act like a fool and doubt that everything will work out for the best unless I take action and fix things, somebody please smack me and point me back to that verse.

In love,

Jean

 

New Beginnings

With God there are no endings, only new beginnings.

I’ve never been good at waiting. I always have to have a plan, always looking five steps ahead. I have a tendency to run ahead and do things my own way, and then pray afterwards that God will bless it.

But He’s been using this season of my life to teach me to relax, to be patient, to let go of MY plans and let HIS plans unfold on HIS timetable.

It hasn’t been easy. There’ve been times that I’ve been chomping at the bit to try and force something to happen. To take charge in hurrying God’s plans along.

Except it doesn’t work that way, and I’m finally getting the message.

But I think I’m finally starting to be allowed to move again, albeit with baby steps. Over these last few weeks I feel like God’s been planting some seeds in me, instilling new dreams and pointing me in new directions. I think this blog is part of that (by the by, how do you like the new look?).

I think I’m also being called to write my testimony about finding healing after my pregnancy losses. Not only for the losses themselves, but for all of the emotional and spiritual scars I bore–and there were a lot of them. I’ve been feeling for a while now like that’s something I’m supposed to share, but the time hasn’t felt right. But yesterday I obeyed an urge to open up a blank journal and start writing my story in it, and the words began to flow.

Today, as I stood in the kitchen making my lunch, I realized that I don’t really have a satisfying ending for my story yet. Like I said, I’m mostly still in a place of waiting. Although God has healed my brokenness and depression and put me back together whole, I don’t have a Hallmark movie ending — a successful pregnancy, a successful business, a bestselling book — something that, if my life were a novel, would provide a definitive “happy ending” and leave the reader feeling hopeful.

So I prayed, “Lord, it would sure help this book I think you’re telling me to write if I could give it a definitive ending.”

And this is the response I heard: “With Me there are no endings, only new beginnings.”

Whoa.

Of course, this is true. This is the God whose mercy is new every morning. Every day is a new beginning, with a clean slate. This is the same God who sent His Son to conquer death, so that even that is not an ending but merely the beginning of our next life.

Whatever He has planned for me and my husband as far as being parents goes, whether we’ll get to have a baby in our middle age, or be led to adopt, or make peace with being child-free, or something so totally unexpected it will blow our minds at God’s amazingness, it won’t be an ending to this story. It will just be the start of a new chapter.

There are other seeds I think He’s in the process of planting, but it’s too soon to talk about those just yet. Suffice to say that I’m starting to see a new vision taking shape, providing a new direction, and I’m daring to allow myself to get excited about it.

Because it is exciting, looking forward to seeing what God will do.

Love,

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PS – Is God sewing any seeds in your life? Are you embarking on any new beginnings, big or small? I’d love to chat about your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

PPS – Join us for coffee and encouragement over at the Coffee For Your Heart weekly linkup at HolleyGerth.com!