Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Struggling in Silence

Struggling and silence are two words that often go together. When I'm hurting, I tend to close up and internalize things. When help is needed, I often don't want to ask. Can you relate? In my last post, "It Could Have Been Me", I shared about my struggle with depression. It hurts to know many can relate to this situation, but that's exactly why I'm sharing these words.

Depression is real. The pit is deep and the view is dark. In my previous post, I talked about how beginning a relationship with Christ helped pull me out of the pit. That is so true...surrendering control, letting go of the need to be good enough and receiving God's love in a personal way changed me immensely. Being filled with the Holy Spirit empowered me and transformed me. I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), but I'm still a human, and so are you. We are flawed, imperfect beings created in the image of God which means this transformation is a process.

All that to say accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior doesn't guarauntee I will never experience depression again. And if you've never battled this in the past it doesn't mean it won't ever happen in the future. If it doesn't happen to you, chances are it might affect someone you love. So rather than be overwhelmed with some bad news, why not be proactive and think about what to do if it happens.

For years I struggled in silence...wrestling with fears, doubts and feelings of unworthiness. I was afraid I'd never be enough, I wouldn't measure up and my life really wouldn't matter. I felt less than, thought I was ugly and was very insecure. I rarely expressed emotion, struggled to share my feelings and internalized my thoughts. All of this combined to create a mess and left me in the pit I previously described.

Thankfully, now as a believer in Jesus and follower of Christ, I have the Holy Spirit and God's Word to direct my thoughts and correct my thinking. Abiding is necessary and prayer is important, but I've learned a few other things to remember when depression hits -

ADMIT - There are times I start slipping back into the pit and I want to deny that it's happening, perhaps it's a pride thing. Satan loves this my friend. This strategy doesn't just apply to depression, but is helpful for any struggle or sin we face. Personally, it's helpful for me to admit this struggle through prayer with God and in conversation with my husband. Putting words to my thoughts, feelings and emotions makes it real...we can't fix a problem if we fail to recognize it.

My experience supports this idea, but more importantly God's Word does as well. But first let me say, I don't want to say depression is a sin, but I know at times it has been a result of my sin. The Bible tells us to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and think Godly thoughts (Phil. 4:8), well let's just say sometimes I fail to do this and when that happens over a period of time my thoughts can take over. As they snowball and Satan feeds me one lie after another, I often find myself in a pit and sliding into depression. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." When I confess my sins, I admit my struggles. When I converse with God, I build my relationship with Him. When I embrace His forgiveness, He purifies me.

ASK - After I realize and admit I have a problem, I can move to the next step, one we often are slow to take - ask for help. This is hard because we don't want to burden others, we don't want to admit our problem and all too often we think we can handle things ourselves. Oh but friend, we need to remember the joy we experience when we can help others and then give someone the same opportunity. It's taken me years to learn this, and I've far from mastered it yet, but I've greatly improved when it comes to the most important ask - asking for prayer. Our family and friends will never pull us from the pit or make the darkness disappear, but they can intercede and ask the One who can.

If we follow this advice before we fall to deep, we can pray and ask God for help as well. Hebrews 4:16 says, "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need." God has all we need...His answers may not always come as soon as we like and His plan may not be the one we've created, but it's the best. I've found David's words in Psalm 142 to be a great example to follow and personalize. David, the man after God's own heart, cried out to God and shared his complaint with Him yet He also declared God was his refuge and committed to praise Him.

THANK - Our pastor likes to say, "Thanksgiving is the rope that connects us to God." So when we are drowning in depression we must grab the rope that will save us. When I'm down and feeling depressed it doesn't take long to lose perspective and let life get out of focus. When I stop to thank God for who He is and all He's given to me, my thoughts shift and the darkness fades. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." We may not thank God for our circumstances, but we can thank Him while we're in them!

TRUST - Depression can hit when times are tough and it's something we often don't understand. But God's Word tells us who we need to trust; Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." It's easy for many to claim this verse as their favorite, but it's much more challenging to actually live it out. I'm a former algebra teacher and I'm a girl who always loved math; I love to figure things out and am thrilled when I get the right answer. I like to understand things and know why, but God commands us to do otherwise - friend, you and I are instructed to trust Him. Not just when it's easy, convenient or makes sense, we are to do this ALL the time with ALL of our heart. Easy? No. Essential? Yes!!

Friend, if you find yourself struggling in silence, I pray this gives you some insight and encouragement. Remember depression does not define you, God does! If you're hurting, admit it, ask for help, thank God and trust Him. He is faithful and will lift you from the pit, I know...He's done it for me! And if you're not struggling in silence, thank God and then perhaps share this with someone who is. Thank you friend!

I waited patiently for the Lord;

He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in Him.
Psalms 40:1-3

1 comment:

  1. Jill, this is such a needed post. Thank you for being God's voice to so many desperate and hurting souls. I pray this over you too as you walk each step today. I'm sure your heart still aches for Grace. Thank you my dear friend. Love you!