STAND UP AND DANCE

I am a wounded healer who dances with a slight limp

For a month in 1623, John Donne and his doctors believed he was suffering (and likely dying) from the bubonic plague. Donne was able to do little more than write, which he did—journaling a series of meditations on his wrestling with God. He titled his work “Devotions”.

THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

On reading “Devotions”, author Phillip Yancey reflected on his own season of weariness and wrote the book “Undone”. Yancey notes: “A measure of shame seems to accompany disability or illness. Donne experienced and wrote about such shame. My journaling expressed my own deep shame, a shame rooted in my belief that I was now weak, flawed, and a failure. This dark hovering cloud of shame is an innate shame in inconveniencing others for something that is neither your fault nor your desire.  Together, depression and anxiety are a two-headed monster. When depression, anxiety, and shame link arms, the days are a downward spiral.” 

DEPRESSION WANTS TO STAY

“Depression has a way of sitting down heavily on your back. It plans to stay a while.” (Ramon Presson)

A SEASON OF PURPOSE

It is easy to disregard a season of depression as being without purpose.  However, the Apostle Paul thought differently: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor 1:3-4).  

DANCE WITH A LIMP

I love the challenge of Henri Nouwen. He calls us to become “wounded healers“. He pronounces: “And if I am a wounded healer, who having fiercely wrestled with God, now dance with a slight limp, then so be it.”

Stand up and dance, no matter your season of unbalance.

HOLDING ON IN THE STORM

Claire is enduring an incredibly rough season.  Month after month she lives with pressure that doesn’t seem to let up.

Claire is enduring an incredibly rough season.  Month after month she lives with pressure that doesn’t seem to let up.  Her daughter Grace experienced a serious accident and Claire discovered herself overnight becoming nurse and fulltime babysitter to her grandchildren. In the chaos of taking care of her daughter’s household, Claire feels like she is shortchanging her other remaining grandchildren who also need her desperately due to family circumstances. Any time she has for one household, she is simultaneously needed in the other.

RUNNING ON FUMES

Claire runs on fumes. Her tank is empty. She forgets to eat. Already slim, it has gotten to the point where she now has also lost most of her muscle. When she gets to set foot in her own home, she just wants to sleep.

And did I add that the church Claire finally connected with turned out as dysfunctional as Claire’s own family? She thought she finally found a group of fellow believers, but the longer she attended, she realized the church was off base.

FEELING CHEWED UP?

Can you identify at all with Claire? Has your season been rough?  Feeling chewed up and spit out? Used and abused? Running on fumes and don’t know how to recover? Use this to begin your prescription for gradually discovering recovery.

A SOUL PRESCRIPTION

Psalm 91 (notes in italics are mine)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

          Decide you are not going to live in the house of “victimhood” but you are going to decide to rest in the arms of God as your Victor

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.

          He alone (not those who make promises and never show) is refuge, place of safety and worthy of trust)

 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

          He is the rescuer, even when you don’t know you are in danger. He wants to protect you from the diseases of bitterness, resentment and hatred. His Word supplies the keys

 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

          You don’t have to sleep with nightmares of everything that can go wrong. You don’t have to dread the sun coming up

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. 15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. 16 I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

To you and the Claires everywhere who are drowning in circumstances, don’t give up. Call on God and decide to trust.  He wants to take care of you for eternity. Take the words of this Psalm, hold them as a banner over your heart, mind and soul. It might be dark tonight, but eventually the sun will come up.  Hold on.

Extra assignment? Listen to https://compelledpodcast.com/episodes/behind-the-scenes-hannah-overton

MY REPAIR SHOP

God pulls me out of myself, my own worries and upheavals into the Universe where He rules.  God speaks to me the best when I shut up and listen.

I am addicted to a British TV show called “The Repair Shop”. The show’s premise is that everyday people bring in family heirlooms which are then repaired and resuscitated for their owners by experts with a broad range of specialties. No one is charged for the work and people are jubilant to see previous pieces which have been mangled over the years, restored to beauty. I love to see beauty brought out of brokenness.

MY SOUL’S REPAIR SHOP

In my living room exists my own unique repair shop. In a corner sits a recliner which is not a family heirloom. It was a Costco special. Next to it is an adjacent couch, also not an heirloom. What makes the recliner special is its daily use.  I sit there and picture Jesus on the adjacent couch. The regular conversations that take place at my recliner have been golden. Beauty is created from brokenness.

THE TOOLS

To the left of my recliner are the tools:

  • My journal
  • Prayer Point” (a Bible reading guide published by Samaritan’s Purse)
  • Open Doors World Watch List 2024 (the top 50 countries I need to be praying for regarding persecution)
  • Valley of Vision” – a collection of Puritan prayers that are a great jumpstart for the days when I feel my prayers are rather dusty.

THE MOST VALUABLE TOOL

But the most valuable tool is my battered and marked up Bible.  I’ve run a lot of miles with it; written notes upon notes in the margins regarding things God has pointed out to me when I’m reading it. 

THE QUIET OF THE SHOP

I’m one of those people who need to have relative quiet while I’m at the shop. Total concentration is necessary. It’s not all about me. God voice needs to be clearly heard. Some days it is difficult when I’m wandering through Leviticus – it may seem dry as dirt (often a match for my soul).

God pulls me out of myself, my own worries and upheavals into the Universe where He rules.  God speaks to me the best when I shut up and listen. 

THE PLACE WHERE YOU MEET GOD

If you are already a believer (you have trusted Jesus Christ alone to make your life new) then having a Soul Repair Shop is one of the best things you can do. Your shop may look different than mine – better furniture, location, or it may even take place in a parked car.  Wherever, this is the place you meet God and implore Him to do His work. 

VISITING THE SHOP CAN BE PAINFUL

Just a warning, work in the Repair Shop can be a little painful. There have been numerous times where God has told me in no uncertain terms to repent, to eat humble pie, and to let go of prized projects. I have to keep remembering that He is the restoration expert, not me.

For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.(Hebrews 4:12-13)

KEEP THAT DAILY APPOINTMENT

Except for the Word of God, the tools God uses in your Repair Shop may be a little different, but the main thing is to consistently permit Him to do His work.  That’s why it is vital to keep that daily appointment.  Do you want your broken parts made beautiful? Is it possible for God to make you clean?  Perhaps you also need to get addicted to “The Repair Shop”, but not the BBC version – God’s version.

MY FROG EXPERIENCE

Life was a mess but I didn’t realize that gradually I was being robbed of my ability to cope.  I just wanted the pain to stop.

In the middle of one of the darkest time periods of my life I had absolutely no hope that resolution would come quickly, or that it would ever come.  My car was approaching a busy intersection.  My light was red.  The thought quickly entered my mind, “Why don’t you just press the gas instead of the brake? If you get lucky enough, you just might be able to end all your pain in one fatal accident.” I didn’t hit the gas, but it did finally enter my brain the deepness and seriousness of my depression. 

FROG COOKING 101

How had I gotten to that point? There is the old story of how to cook a live frog. You place it in a pot of cold water (if you suddenly turn up the heat and bring the water to a boil, the frog will jump out immediately to escape the danger). However, if you begin with lukewarm water and gradually increase the temperature, the frog won’t perceive the danger.  It will remain in the pot, unaware, and eventually be cooked to death.

THE SAD NEW NORM

That’s the way it can be with depression.  It enters one’s story, but gradually becomes such a normal part of one’s life that this becomes the new norm. That was me driving through that intersection.

DEPRESSION ROBS

Depression slowly makes gains day to day.  It commits the crimes of robbery of wonders such as joy, peace, sleep, or the ability to just cope with regular life.  I was that frog in the pot – life was a mess but I didn’t realize that gradually I was being robbed of my ability to cope.  I just wanted the pain to stop.

DEPRESSION ISOLATES

The problem for many people who are massively depressed is that they don’t have someone true and faithful they can confide in.  Someone who will not only listen, but can be trusted to be upfront when the truth needs to be told but loving at the same time.  The only person I knew who I could confide in was stuck in the same mess as myself.  Depressed people are lonely and the depression just intensifies the isolation.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK

So what is the challenge for this week? Avoid traffic intersections!!!! (Just kidding) Ask God for a friend.  Not just any old friend, a friend who loves Jesus totally and will extend to you the same grace that Jesus extends.  To find this friend (or friends) may mean you will have to get out of your comfort zone.  You may have to volunteer somewhere, begin attending a church, engage your neighbors in more than the “Hi” “Bye” typical conversations, or maybe make a phone call to someone who you used to be able to connect with.  Possibly none of these will work out for you – but what have you lost by trying???  Begin every day with the prayer, “Lord, please help me to begin being open to people and also lead me to someone I can help.”

DON’T STAY IN THE POT!

Try it and please let me know what happens. Don’t just stay stuck in the pot.

IS THE INEVITABLE ACTUALLY EVITABLE?

Hopelessness does have to be your deadend.

It’s no use.  I didn’t succeed before.  Nothing’s changed.  Why should I expect anything different? It’s inevitable. All of us have at one time or another had those thoughts run through our hearts.  It might have been for an hour, a day, a week, month, or even years.  There is nothing that Satan would like more than to convince believers that there is no hope. That is often a major component of depression.

HANNAH OVERTON’S STORY

Hannah Overton had given up hope. Her story is beyond “compelling” (a little nod to the podcast company).  Falsely accused of killing her 4-year-old foster son, Hannah was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.  This mother of six had to transition from being a homeschooling mother of six to being a resident of a maximum-security prison.  It became her new home address for seven years.  So many times, especially at the beginning, she was filled with resentment, depression. She became suicidal.  Most would think she was entitled to exiting this painful life. 

JOSEPH’S STORY

That’s probably exactly the same thought that tempted Joseph in the Book of Genesis when he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, became a prison resident, and given a brief glimpse of hope (which was quickly shut down).  He spent thirteen years before the tide changed.

GOD NEVER FORGOT HIM

The most important thing about Joseph’s story is that even when he was in darkness, God never forgot Him.  That is the reason why day in and day out, even in the most challenging circumstances, Joseph behaved in a way that honored God.  He didn’t resign.  Joseph chose to make God the ruler of his life, rather than the slave owners and the prison warden.  He decided on hope.

GOOD OUT OF BAD?

The Joseph’s attitude is found in Genesis 50.  In a miraculous chain of circumstances, h rose to be the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt. Upon the death of their father, the brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery so many years ago were afraid that Joseph would seek revenge on them.  Joseph’s response to his brothers’ terror is, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

ANTIDOTE FOR HOPELESSNESS

A life-preserver is only of use when a person grabs on to it and holds on for dear life.  The Savior can only save those who grab hold of Him and choose to keep holding on. The central attitude adopted by Joseph regarding the betrayals of his brothers was, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Gen. 50:15-20) He chose to cling to the best antidote to hopelessness: God’s truth. That is eventually the same decision that led to Hannah not taking her own life while in prison. She held on to God’s faithfulness, even in the midst of great darkness.

THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE

Challenge for this week – start taking regular time to develop God’s viewpoint on your current circumstances. I have found planning spend a day without any electronic media – no Facebook, TV, movies, YouTube, no world news, etc. is extremely helpful. It’s a vacation day for your spirit. Take time to carefully read, listen and reflect on His Word and let it saturate your view of your personal circumstances.  Here are a few passages that might be helpful: Psalm 91, Psalm 31:3-5, Psalm 34:17-20. Write down those verses that speak to you and try to commit them to memory. Hopelessness does not have to be inevitably permanent.

Please let me know if your spirit’s vacation day helps bring some light. It might be the rest your soul needs right now. Both Hannah, Joseph, and I have found it extremely beneficial. Break the chain of thinking, “Why should I expect anything different? It’s inevitable.

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION #101

There is hope, even if you don’t feel like hope is a part of your experience anymore

Do you remember that those first holidays during COVID?  High hopes that COVID would be over by Thanksgiving and Christmas that year. But no, the holidays came and went. Isolation.  I vividly recall the shots of the vehicles outside the hospital in NYC.  Bodies were being stored there because there just wasn’t enough time or resources for funerals.  Merry Christmas.

THE RABBIT HOLE

Then came daily news briefings by our State’s Governor (just in case no one had noticed the State of Emergency).  News was never good.  Along with millions of others I was depressed. It wasn’t the first time I ever went through depression and it certainly has not been the last, but this was memorable. Many peoples’ mental and emotional states of health accompanied me down the rabbit hole. 

NOT THE OCCASIONAL DOWN DAY

Depression is not an occasional down day, a minor bump in the road.  Rather, depression is a visitor that overstays its welcome.  Eviction notices are necessary. There are many symptoms, but one may lose interest in doing what was formerly enjoyable, energy goes down the drain, a general sense of hopelessness pervades the atmosphere and life stinks. 

THE DARK HOLE

It is a dark and lonely place, especially for a believer in Jesus Christ.  The hole is so dark that all hope of rescue evaporates. This condition is especially a rude awakening if one has never previously experienced it. It may seem to come out of nowhere. One feels locked in. What does a person do if they feel like there are blindly trying to find their way out of a sealed room?

YOUR INVITATION

Depression has been an unwanted houseguest in my life since childhood.  Yes, COVID amplified it, but I was abundantly acquainted with depression way before any virus entered the picture.  Beloved friend, please walk with me these coming weeks as we explore possibilities in finding better healthier ways of coping with depression. We will be exploring possibilities for discovering hope in the next few weeks in the blogs I publish on Thursdays.

ABUNDANCE IS POSSIBLE

I want you to know that there is hope, even if you don’t feel like hope is a part of your experience anymore. My goal is that you would gradually discover your way toward the abundant life you had envisioned. Have to tell you that what God may define as abundant life and what you had planned as abundant life may be totally different scenarios, but I know from my own experience that God’s plans are extraordinarily good.

Assignment #1

Read “Martin Luther’s Shelter Amid the Flood of Depression”.  You may appreciate by beginning the paragraph headed “Plague, Sickness, Depression”. It spoke to me. Break out your songbook for this one. You are not alone in this.  Depression has haunted the ages but let’s begin to kick its butt.

Please write to me more questions, comments, and stories. We are in this together.