Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Long Time Coming, Part Two

A year ago I don’t think I possibly could have understood why anyone would call a long period of discouragement good.  Good is happy, right?  But now I know that good is God.  Period. I think some of my best times have been through the tough times when God was all I had.

Because I have Jesus, my circumstances don’t dictate my attitude.  He’s teaching me that I can find contentment in anything He brings or allows into my life.  Can it be painful and yucky?  Of course.  We are promised there are going to be hard times.  I’m reading a lot about Paul these days.  At the end of his life he faced shipwreck and imprisonment and ultimately death for the gospel.  Those are the times he wrote so many letters in the New Testament that are a constant source of encouragement to believers.  He writes about contentment in Philippians:

I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don't mean that your help didn't mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. Philippians 4:10-14 (The Message)

And as my wonderful Pastor said last week, God is still winning.  Nothing is out of His plan.  Even when it seems to us like he must have lost control for a while.  Everything is planned for his purposes. 

So, in my weakness I eventually turned to God.  And those weeks in January were some of the best, most tender spiritual times I’ve had in my life.  Giving the crushing weight over to Christ and confessing that I can’t handle it on my own was the most victorious day.  I think a big part of my problem was that I was trying to do everything on my own.  I wanted to be a great wife, a terrific mother, a part of our church, a friend, an encourager on my own and in my own strength.  What I actually needed was to rest in Christ’s strength and the power of the Holy Spirit.

For example, I always want to reach out when someone is hurting.  Normally, I would try to bring them a meal or send them a card.  Thos things are great but not when it’s me feeling like I have to run to the rescue.  It’s only ministry when I’m just letting God’s love and grace flow through me.

Or as a Mom I feel like I should constantly be doing things to be good.  I should be doing projects, making terrific meals or going places.  That’s me trying to mother in my own strength.  Sometimes a morning snuggle on the couch or having hot dogs for supper are the moments that God helps me remember that it’s not about what I do.  

God has brought me a long way.  I know there are still going to be struggles along the way.  Here are some things I’m doing and not doing on the depression front:

I am feeling good, in fact I have been feeling great the last few months.  Partially because I really believe that God can and has healed the hurting places in my heart. When I was struggling the most, I used that as an excuse to allow myself to run away from God and others.  I thought things that I should not have.  Depression is serious, but it is not an excuse to sin or shut down.  I think I used it that way. 

I am exercising.  Shocking!  Right now one of the things that is really helping me is a jogging date with a friend.  We meet at 6:05 a.m. three days a week and jog together.  I get an hour of great conversation, breathless but great.  For me, my mood is a way better motivation than losing weight, although I wouldn’t complain if that was a side effect.   And getting up that early helps me stay on a normal sleep pattern.  All of which from what I’ve read are important in dealing with depression. 

I am not taking medication, although I know it may be necessary at some point.  I think from what I’ve read that it wouldn’t help me right now.  I needed to deal with the spiritual symptoms in my life. 

I am experiencing open doors of ministry.  I understand better how to show compassion to people who are hurting.  I know what it’s like to need encouragement and am better equipped to give it.

I am at peace.  When I have those waves of exhaustion or sadness, I don’t hate it.  I don’t hate feeling weak. I love running right to Christ and letting His strength and peace wash over me.  I know there is some purpose behind what I’m going through.

And mostly, I’m thankful.  Very, very thankful that God allowed this to come into my life.  The things he has shown me are things He knew I needed.   I know what it’s like to hurt and how to comfort others.  He’s taught me about compassion.  He’s taught me that His promises are true.  He will never leave me.  I could not have gotten here without walking a less than fun road.  The place I’m in is good, because it’s where God wants me.  I don’t want to be anywhere else.

Umm, that seems like a lot.  But guess what?  There’s more. 


Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – the message.


Steph VG said...

Thank you. What an encouragement to MY heart, which also struggles with these things. Praising God with you for the things He's done in and through you during hard growth and pruning.

mamabear said...

You're doing a great job with this, Michelle! So nicely written and so well organized. Praise God for the work he's done! I will keep remembering you in prayer! Being a Pastor's wife takes incredible strength, no doubt. Especially on top of the ministry that is motherhood!

sharilyn said...

thanks for continuing the story... for the encouragement given by words spoken... God is good, and He does work through those difficult times in our lives... it's good to know He is there with us in the midst of the trying times...

He will continue to heal you and grow you and to encourage us through the process... :)

PW BethAnn said...

THANK YOU! Thank you for telling it like it is - the good, the bad, and the ugly. You are a huge encouragement to me to keep on making good choices and to live in Christ's power and not my own. Thank you. *hug*

Peter and Nancy said...

That's a pretty powerful distinction -- doing ministry in my own strength vs. God's strength. Jill Briscoe puts it this way: if we're tired *in* doing ministry, that's okay, but when we're tired *of* doing ministry, it's a sign that we're burnt out, or something else is going on.

My husband's mom has lived with depression for years, and used a variety of different sources of help. Thanks for talking about this -- too many Christians think that "good" or "real" Christians don't struggle with depression. I know that your words will have a freeing effect for many.