Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring Is Here!

            (You may have read a lot of this in the post about “My Everyday Prayer” because I also posted it there.  But today is the day I wrote it!)
            For the longest time, as you can tell if you’ve read the past posts, I have been struggling with a sort of depression, feeling like there are so many things that just aren’t going right in my life.  When I started this blog, I decided not to sugar coat the Christian life.  I have lots of struggles when it comes to my views of myself, questions about prayer, feelings of failure and like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, etc.  And I felt that is was important for me to be honest with this “dark side” of myself. 

            There are far too many of us who put on a happy face at church and act like everything is okay or like we have all things under control.  This gives a false impression to others.  It makes those who struggle with depression and negative thoughts feel even worse about themselves, like there’s something wrong with them.  And if we never admit to the dark sides of ourselves, we aren’t able to help those who struggle, too.  So I wanted to be transparent about myself and my struggles, even if it sounds “unChristian” or like I can’t handle life on my own.  Because the truth is that I can’t handle this life on my own.  I don’t have the control or the ability to make something beautiful out of my messy life.  But God does. 
            And that’s why through it all – even when I was at a complete loss of what else I could do to make things better – I kept searching after God.  I kept trying to draw as near to Him as I possibly could, even when I felt like He was pulling away.  (Which He seems to do at various times in my life – times when He is asking me to go deeper in my faith.)
            The thing is, I have chosen to place my faith and my trust fully in the Lord.  And so I have no one else to ultimately go to.  For me, it’s just like John 6:68: “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.’”  If Jesus isn’t the answer, then nothing else matters.  I have not found anything else that has the kind of hope that the Bible does.  So even when times are tough, the path is dark, and God feels hidden, I keep running after Him.  I keep searching and calling.  And when there is nothing else I can do, I wait for Him and I cling to Him in the trusting hope that He will eventually show Himself to me again.
            And for so long lately, I have found myself doing just that - clinging and waiting for Him to find me again in the midst of my emotional pain.  I have poured out my pain as honestly as I could.  I have sought Him in prayer and Scripture.  I have examined myself and attempted to view myself and my struggles through His eyes.  I have looked for the hidden blessings.  I have continued to trust that He is there, even when I didn’t feel it.  And I waited some more.  And then today, He finally showed up!
            I was reading a book at the table today when I suddenly felt the heavy chains of depression and anxiety slip off my shoulders.  I felt a freedom and a peace that I haven’t felt in a long, long time.  And I don’t think that I did anything to make this happen (other than clinging and waiting and constantly running after Him), but I believe it was a work of the Holy Spirit.
            I was reading about a family who lost a child to cancer.  And it deeply hit me how incredibly blessed I am just to have my children, a good marriage, and our good health.  With these three things alone (along with my faith in God, of course), I am rich beyond measure.  And I need to constantly remind myself of this.  I need to constantly thank God for these gifts and remember how blessed my life is because of them.  Everything else (besides winning souls and bringing God glory) pales in comparison to these gifts. 
            This is why I added a section to my “Everyday Prayer” where I thank God for these and remind myself of how blessed I am.  It’s far too easy for me to want too much, to get discouraged when I see our old, worn-out clothes and the house repairs that we can’t get around to fixing, to feel like a failure when no one wants to read the things I’ve written, to despair when another small prayer goes unanswered, to feel insignificant as I spend my days washing dishes and cooking meals.  I want too much all the time, and I can get myself really down when I focus on the un-granted wants.  But when I remember daily that I have the gifts that really matter, I feel incredibly blessed.
            In all honesty, I have never taken my marriage, children, or health for granted.  I have known a lot of loss and heartache.  I know about the severe struggles and losses others go through.  And so I have always considered these things blessings.  But for some reason, it hit me so much deeper in my spirit today.  Just thinking about the goodness God has poured out on me through these three things tapped into a deep well of joy that’s been closed for a long time.  Every other concern fell by the wayside as I was filled with this incredible sense of gratitude and God’s goodness.  And it felt so refreshing.  It released a sense of peace that I haven’t felt free to feel in a long time because of all the concerns and disappointments that have clouded my mind and strangled my spirit. 
            God has allowed me to have these blessings today.  And as long as I have them, I will remember how truly rich I am.  I really don’t need more than these things.  I don’t need all of the things that I think I do.  I can live with a lack of friends, scattered family, a half-finished house, a “small” role, unexpected house problems, garden pests, financial struggles, an unclear future, a failed “book publishing” venture, etc. 
            I can live with those disappointments and struggles because I have been blessed in the ways that really matter.  God has walked with me through all my hard times.  He has met me again in my pain, releasing me from the bondage of depression and anxiety (at least for now, but I’ll take it).  And He has graciously allowed me to have a husband I love, four wonderful and healthy children that we truly enjoy being with, and good health all around.  I really have nothing to complain about!  God has been so good!  Life is sweet indeed! 
            Of course, I don’t know what’s around the corner.  And I do know that there will be problems.  Because life is full of trials and tribulations.  And it will continue to be this way until eternity comes.  And God could allow the things I cherish to be taken from me.  I often find myself afraid that if I enjoy some blessing too much, He will take it away just to test me.  And I know that anything that we value becomes a prime target for Satan, because he knows that hitting those areas will really hurt us.  And this is why I pray daily for protection over these things.  It is a spiritual battle that we are in.  And prayer is a huge weapon in this battle.
            And this is why faith in God is so important.  Because it’s the only hope we really have.  He is our strength through the hard times.  And, of course, I pray that He doesn’t allow the things I value most to be taken from me.  But if it does happen, I hope that I’ll be able to say with Paul that nothing compares to the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”  (Phil 3:8)  That right there is truly the blessing of all blessings!
            You know the verse, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  (Psalm 37:4)  I think that when we learn to delight in the Lord above all (when we zoom in on God so that He is bigger than everything else; bigger than our longings for other things, our problems, our fears, etc.), we learn that delight in the Lord is the desire of our heart!  If we can find delight in Him, no matter the circumstances of our life, we have all we really need.  Because we have the true desire of our heart.  We have Him!  And for now, I am simply enjoying His presence.  My desire for Him has eclipsed all other desires.  I have found delight in Him.  And it is so sweet!
            And when the future hard times come, I know that He will get me through those, too.  Because that’s what He does.  He is a good, loving Father.  (This is another truth that was really driven home as I travelled through a long, hard, dark valley.  I wrote about this in Child of Mine: My Sweetly Broken Journey at sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com.)  And I trust that ultimately He will make all things right again!  He will turn all of the messes into something beautiful for those who love Him.  And those are the truths that I cling to when the path is dark and the journey is painful.  But today I rejoice in the knowledge that I am rich indeed.  That He is good.  And that He is here.  And I have wanted to feel this kind of lightness for a long, long time.  Thank You, Lord! 
            And it is on this note that I think I will end this blog.  I have certainly done my fair share of complaining, venting concerns, and sharing negative thoughts about myself.  I have been through a long “dark night of the soul.”  A dead, depressing “winter” season of the soul.  And that’s what makes today so sweet.  God met me today.  His Spirit moved in my heart and my soul.  And just as it did, the sun broke through the thick gray clouds and filled the backyard with the most wonderful light, with “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle playing in the background.  It was a moment – a gift – that was just for me! 
            For those of you who are also struggling with the “winters” and the “dark nights,” hang in there.  Keep clinging.  Keep waiting.  He will eventually show up for you, too.  It doesn’t mean everything will go as we want it to go.  And it often means that we’ll have to learn to be content with life the way it is, problems and all.  But when He finally shows up in the midst of the darkness and the pain, you’ll be filled with a contentment and a peace that will release a deep sense of joy that you didn’t even know was there.  You will experience the surpassing greatness of knowing the God drew near to you. 
            Hang in there.  Spring will come!  Spring always follows winter!  The dawn always follows the night!
            And with this I say, “Farewell!  Take care!  And God bless you all!”