"Life" has been a bit of a challenge recently. My heart has been struggling with some very heavy issues, burdens, and situations that seem impossible. It has also been beyond amazing. In some areas of life, I've never felt more alive, full of joy and have never seen God work so vividly.
Bouncing back and forth between those two emotions has left me feeling like I'm on a roller coaster. I HATE roller coasters. I'll gladly encourage and support family members as they ride them (which means I'll gladly hold their drinks, phones, sunglasses, bags, etc.!), but for me....NO WAY!
During this struggle recently with hard issues, there has been this incessant reminder of other dark times. I guess it's best described as a nagging fear.
When will I break down and let the weight of life crush?
When will I fall prey to the depression that robbed so much from myself and our family a few years ago?
THAT is what nags. Like a dripping faucet.
Even though I've fought that battle so hard and finally feel victorious in regards to knowing that I won't go back to that deep abyss, I still have an irrational fear that every little down day is a sign that darkness awaits.
THAT is satan.
That is his attempt to knock me down and to use it as a way in to control my emotions.
I most definitely have things I regret from that time period.
But here is TRUTH.
God convicts. Satan condemns.
It took me a long time to understand the difference.
God convicts me to do things differently. Yet, he doesn't condemn. He gives victory.
Satan also knows what weaknesses haunt us the most and twists those to his advantage. He knows the more he can keep our eyes off of Christ, the more chance he can get wedged in our lives.
The victory is that he holds NO power against us when we live in Christ Jesus. Oh yes, he can attempt. But we HOLD THE POWER.
Earlier this week, as I've been struggling with such heavy issues and praying that He will help keep my eyes on Him during it all, I had a reminder from Him.
He brought me through the deepest, darkest times. Times of TRUE depression. A time that I will NEVER return to. A few hard days here and there are NOT indicative of that deep, overpowering darkeness.
We often laugh at how God reaches my heart at the craziest moments and most "odd" ways.
Once again, He got my attention in an unusual manner.
In the shower. In the dark.
Many months ago, through much trial and error, I discovered that the wee ones that I provide childcare for sleep the best in our master bathroom. It is the darkest and quietest spot in the house! (Well, until you try to spend three minutes alone in there. You moms know that is exactly when the kids decide they need you or that EVERYTHING is an emergency!). We call the bathroom the "cave" when referring to naptime with the babies. I am a PRO at popping up and down playpens for sleeping. I think I can do it in 5 seconds flat with one hand! (Ok---that might be a very slight exaggeration. VERY slight!). It may not be the most perfect location for naps, but it works. I don't run a daycare. I just keep little ones in our home and they are part of us. I don't have separate areas for them. They just become part of us and we make what we have work for the situation.
This sleeping situation works well.
Well, until I started using naptime as the time that I get in a workout. Which means, during naptime, this mom MUST get a shower.
I learned that as long as the lights stay completely off, I can get a shower without waking a little one. Turn on a light and nap is over.
Just like with many other things, you learn to adapt. Make things work even if it isn't the perfect or ideal you have in your head.
One day last week, shortly after praying that God would help me to overcome this nagging fear of going back to OVERWHELMING, DEBILITATING depression, He reached me in that dark shower.
In the pitch black, I saw just a tiny sliver of light. Barely noticeable. So very faint that I almost missed it.
Yet, as I began to focus on that light, trying to figure out where it was coming from it grew brighter. Though in actuality, it wasn't physically getting brighter. It was just snuffing out the dark.
Just like when you light a single candle or match in a dark room, that light becomes brighter as your eyes adjust. When the flame first flickers it doesn't make much of a difference, but as your eyes adjust the light begins to overtake the darkness.
I finally discovered that sliver of light was coming from the drain pipe. The lights were on in our unfinished basement and the light shining on the pipe was JUST enough to give it a slight glow.
In the darkness, you CLING to the light.
God reminded my heart that I came out of that darkness because I clung to Him. I searched for light. I sought it out.
Even when there was MUCH more darkness than light, I found ways to let my eyes adjust to just a faint sliver of light until it got brighter and brighter.
I have no need to fear.
His light will always be in front of me: IF I LOOK for it!
Just like taking a shower in the dark requires some adaptations to make it work, life during dark times takes adaptations.
Keep it simple. Stick to habits that you know work in your situation.
To shower in the dark, I leave things lined up and in specific spots. I know what my bottle of shampoo feels like versus conditioner. I know what my face soap feels like versus body wash. I keep my razor on the right and Kevin's on the left.
In life, you keep things simple. You give yourself grace to accept that you need help. You stick to basics. Cereal for dinner won't scar your children for life! It's ok to say no to extra activities.
Most importantly, you find light and cling to it. Give those little slivers of light a chance to get brighter. Trust me, I know that there are times finding even the slightest light in your life is hard because your eyes are only used to seeing darkness. It may only be a small flame. It may not be enough to light your entire life, but you still focus on it.
Someone's encouraging words. Something beautiful and calming to look at. A song that gives you peace and hope. An inspirational book/blog/speaker.
Scripture. Scripture. Scripture.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
Even when you don't have the words to pray (which happened to me VERY often), God saw and heard my words through my tears and desperation.
I recently heard some advice during an online workshop with Lysa TerKeurst. What she said made amazing sense and I didn't realize until then that it is EXACTLY what I did during my darkest times and how effective it was.
When you are struggling with hard things and ESPECIALLY depression, the smallest tasks are overwhelming. (This is also great advice for moms with small children or multiple children and you are absolutely exhausted, busy, and overwhelmed!). Reading and memorizing scripture can seem daunting.
It's all it takes.
Every day focus on one verse. Choose a verse that is encouraging or gives you hope. Choose a promise that applies to your situation. Choose a verse that keeps your heart focused on truth. Whatever is needed for YOU, today!
Focus on it. Pray it. Memorize it. Visualize it. Write it. Leave it around to see. Repeat it over and over as many times each day as you need to.
Keep it simple.
You don't have to memorize passages. You don't have to read chapters. Oh yes---it is wonderful on the days that you can. Those days DO feed your soul, but some days....
Let it be the flicker of light. Let it be what your eyes adjust to. Let it become your life-line.
My heart needed the reminder in the dark of the shower with the faintly glowing pipe that I can cling to the light. He was there in the darkest of times. He is there now when I fear going back because of some hard things going in life.
I'm confident that I'm not going back. But I know someone reading is STILL there. I've talked to many women lately that are deep in the trenches of the battle. I just want to say, don't give up. Keep clinging to any bits of light you can find. Don't focus on the darkness. Focus on the light. That light WILL get brighter. The light WILL drown out the darkness. From personal experience, I know it will. Circumstances and heartache are still real and life will not be perfect, but the light will get brighter! Just don't stop looking for it. Please, don't stop!