“The thing about being stuck in the darkness, is that it’s not until your standing in the light that you can see that the shadows don’t have as much power as they once did. Crawl if you have to…”
Christmas, a great time for Christians to be reminded that God stepped into flesh to make himself known, and eventually for us to find rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. While this is true, many believers struggle at this time of the year. Past and present pain is intensified and for some, the bitterness they have carried for a long time somehow becomes heavier.
A week ago my wife found who she thought was my birth mother on Facebook, and after looking at her profile photo for 15 minutes I decided to write to her. I had only met her once briefly when I was pretty young so I was a little nervous. If this was her what would I say, and how would she react to a son who she gave up nearly 40 years earlier getting in touch with her. Anyway long story short it was her! Naturally at first she was in shock and when the dust settled she pushed me away. “Forget you ever found me on Facebook, I am your past”.
I was adopted when I was about 12 months old and was lucky enough to have grown up in a pretty awesome family. Even though I was provided for and loved I was far from stable. From an early age I remember being really frustrated, something was missing, and as I entered adulthood I found myself on a destructive path of bitterness. It raised it’s ugly head in many areas of my life, from addiction to the raging storms in my internal world. I know I’m not the only one who has or still is experiencing this kind of chaos. If you are carrying bitterness then you know how much damage this is causing you and others in your life.
My reaction to all of this came as a bit of a surprise to me. Not only did I anticipate that she may not welcome any kind of dialogue, but in the thick of it I held on to the thought that we all have a story, there is sometimes ugly stuff included and I don’t know this woman let alone what’s happened in her life. And I was ok with her request not to send any more messages. I also told her I had forgiven her. After becoming a Christian I was able to name a lot of things that were attached to the pain I was carrying, I sought out lots of professional help and continuously went to Jesus with all the pain that I had stored up. Seasons came and went but there was always a part of me wondering if I had really let go of that original rejection, and could Jesus really heal that part of my life that had caused me so much grief?
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. – Jesus Christ
Jesus promises to give us rest when we come to him and that we can learn from him. It’s easy to tell those who are struggling, this piece of scripture, but how do we actually experience the rest he is offering, and what can we actually learn from him in the end. Upon reflection of all the convesations i have had with my birth mother over the last week, I have realised a couple of things. All that time in the darkness asking Jesus to make sense of what was going on he was there. Even when I was crawling and pleading for relief he was doing something that I could not see. And it wasn’t until I confidently forgave my birth mother and felt no anger or bitterness towards her, that I knew that I had been given complete rest. I also learnt something from Jesus, to forgive others who may not understand what they have done.
I am certain Jesus didn’t have in mind a once off visit when he said those words we see in the book of Matthew. For those of you desperate for rest from pain caused by others, and are feeling like giving up because of the weight, there is hope! So continue to come to him, even when you don’t feel like it, come as you are, even if it means crawling. It may take a day or longer to experience the fruit of his grace, but we can be sure that Jesus never stops loving us, and have confidence that the work that he is doing deep in our hearts and souls is ongoing. Even when we cannot see it.
Peace to you
Since the death of Robin williams I have been involved in many conversations about depression and suicide. I myself suffered from this monster for a number of years and the depression did lead to thoughts of taking my own life. But I am still here. Being a follower of Jesus Christ and living with this illness is controversial to some and to others it’s something very real.
I am a big believer in the supernatural when it comes to the Christian journey, the benefits of being part of a family where your father just happens to be the creator of the universe, but all to often when it comes to the subject of illness, especially mental health, it’s ignored or forgotten, that because of the fall, our brokenness and the bodies we live in, well we are not immune to all pain. Amen to having the mind of Christ and to being a new creation but then there’s the issue of our humanness
Everyone’s journey is different, but I believe if your part of the body of Christ, then are are certainly things that one can do to not just simply survive during depression, but actually live as well. So what I’m about to say is not the only way but after years of struggling and working out how to seperate myself from depression while finding my place in the kingdom, I think it’s important for all Christians, especially those who are suffering, to hold on to certain things.
Isolation is a killer, when the shit hits the fan many people will isolate themselves and doing this is asking for trouble. I don’t think Christians are meant to be alone so when we make a choice to cut ourselves off from friends,family or church it creates an opportunity for the father of lies to move in an ransack our spiritual and mental lives. Self examination is less likely to take place and hopelessness moves in
Christian or not hope is a very powerful thing. I’m sure we have all met people who either say they have lost hope or they don’t bother hoping anymore. But when we are the ones that forget what hope looks like, well it can feel like your the walking dead. It’s important and awesome to have hope in the grace of God and our new life in Christ, but that stuff is even more powerful when we can see how that is connected to our human lives, vocation and using our gifts to contribute to the world.
I spent years suffering and choosing to suffer alone but after I became a Christian I was introduced to community, allowing others to speak Into my life and learnt that I must participate in the process of sanctification. These things changed my life and I received much healing from past chaos, depression and patterns that were doing me no good. I’m in no way perfect and of course we all have our bad days but I would say
that making a choice to no longer isolate ourselves, holding on to hope and putting ourselves in a space where other Christians can encourage us, challenge us and walk beside us is a powerful weapon to counter attacking depression.
God never works in any particular order when it comes to this stuff, and he is always working in our lives, but sometimes we need to starve the things in out lives that that want to kill us-Depression, and instead feed the things that that will transform and save us-Hope, Community and life giving Choices.
If your reading this and you are suffering from depression then I want to encourage you. It’s worth holding on, you will benefit from making yourself vulnerable by allowing good people into your life and your contribution to the world and the body of Christ is needed. God knew you before you were conceived and knows you now and your life is worth living.