O my soul, why are you so overwrought?
Why are you so disturbed?
Why can’t I just hope in God? Despite all my emotions, I will hope in God again.
I will believe and praise the One
who saves me and is my life,
My Savior and my God.
Psalm 43:5 – The Voice
Early in my life I was clueless about depression, although sometimes I would find myself feeling what I called the blues. As I tried to recall the triggers, I remembered music was the most powerful motivation. I do not think I could be called romantic, however sad songs had a way of bringing me crashing.
A phrase often used to describe me was “Social Butterfly.” If there was a social gathering I wanted to be there! Even sports activities were more about the socialization than the events. I enjoyed people, my working life was spent as a customer service representative for a uniform company. What I enjoyed most was being involved with the people. I also had moments when I was not so fond of the human race, however those were mostly in the minority.
Then there came a calling from God. I answered. Little did I know how that was to affect who I was! Pastoring was for the most part a joy. I knew there would be those who did not like me, those who thought I did not fit in pastoral ministry. (Like everything else it too would have its less than joyful moments.) These are people we will all experience in our lives; we live in a broken world and we are broken people, so relationships are also victims of broken-ness. While I understand this, what surprised me most were the personal attacks received for having and expressing a differing opinion or viewpoint.
A couple years into our pastoral journey, we lost nearly everything we owned in a house fire. At that time I had received some letters attacking me and my ministry. One of those authors who had been quite free in expressing his personal dislike of me and all I represented sent a sympathy card after the fire. I was unable to believe the same person who had so fiercely, personally attacked me could truly care about my loss. I deposited the letter where I felt it belonged!
Later, when talking to a supervisor, I shared the story. The supervisor’s question to me was, “If someone disagrees with you, they can’t feel sympathy for you?” My response was, I don’t have a problem with those who disagree with me, especially when it comes to relating my understanding of God. However, for someone to make a personal attack, then send a card telling me how sorry they are for me does not ring true!
Then came illness, first Joni’s then mine. Doctors informed us we needed to move for her health, so we moved. Within a couple of years, doctors told us we needed to move again, this time because of my health. When my health crashed, I was slammed by a series of issues harder to cope with than I’d imagined. It was then I began to really discover what emotions could do to your mind.
Depression suddenly became a very real part of my life, in ways I could never have guessed! Some of you know this place well, you are or have been in depression. Right or wrong that is where I have been in my emotional process. With you, I am discovering how God addresses these challenges. He carries me.
Firstly there came the division I experienced with God, my wife, and everyone else. I could not relate to anyone, therefore I was separated from all. Along with this came the guilt, the soul crushing guilt and shame permeating everything. This in turn deepened the depression. I was not sleeping, and side effects of illness and medical treatments made shame overwhelming. Shame over everything, people, job, work, family, everything. The deeper the shame, the deeper became my depression which in turn caused incredible guilt. I was a Pastor, a Christian, I was not supposed to be depressed.
I am not in physical shape to accomplish much of anything, especially when it comes to maintaining relationships with God and people. Yet God surrounded me with people who loved me no matter what. Over the years God had been preparing for this “valley of the shadow of death.” God gave me a wife who stayed no matter how difficult I might be; Joni is the helper promised to me by God. He planted seeds of Himself deep inside my heart, my soul. His word to me continually encourages, rescues, and makes life possible. His grace at work in me through the process makes this all possible.
I understand now in ways I had not before, how involved God is in ALL my life. My physical health and emotional attitude does not hinder His ability to do all He promises. It may hinder my ability to see Him working, it does not keep Him from working. God and His promises lead me to face each day in Him. When I feel I cannot face another day, God reminds me to rest in Him. Day by day God makes this a reality in my life through Joni and my daughters (who have been after me to write for quite some time), family, friends and all those He sends into my life. And every day is another opportunity to grow and encourage others to discover for themselves the yoke of Jesus which is easy and light.
My prayer as we share this process we are in with God, is you will also find your rest in Him. The truth that must flood into our beings is God accomplishes His will in us despite ourselves. Ask Him!
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message