A Look at Depression: Hannah

A heart of desperation is what we find in Hannah when we read her story in 1 Samuel 1.

Hannah lived in her home with her husband, Elkanah, as well as with his other wife, Peninnah and her children. Hannah had to share her husband with another woman and that woman’s children who were fathered by her own husband. How hard would that be?

And as if that isn’t bad enough, as if you wouldn’t already have a tendency to feel jealousy in your heart just because of what your husband shared, even as far as feelings for his other wife, there were also the children.

Peninnah was able to have children, and Hannah was not. The Lord had closed Hannah’s womb for some reason unknown to her and Elkanah. Hannah was desperate, she wanted children more than anything else. Month after month, year after year, she waited, hoping to become pregnant, but it didn’t happen just then.

Elkanah’s love, Penninah’s having children, and Hannah’s desire for children all became points of rivalry between these women. Peninnah taunted Hannah constantly reminding her of the fact that she had children and Hannah didn’t. It was obvious to Peninnah that Elkanah loved Hannah more than herself and it pushed her to rub in the reality of Hannah’s childlessness even more, causing more and more pain to Hannah.

It seemed that there was nothing to soothe Hannah, she was desperate. The pain of her infertility and the constant taunting sent her into deep depression. Hannah cried and cried, she suffered from loss of appetite, she was brokenhearted.

Have you ever felt desperation?

It is a feeling that seems to overwhelm you fully. You can only think about the emotional pain you feel and the unmet need or desire that seems to be constantly out of reach.

Infertility is only of many situations that can lead to desperation and depression. There are many single people desperate to be loved and to be married. There are many jobless men and women desperate to find employment to support them and their family.

When desperation goes on and on for weeks, months, and into years, one begins to feel so defeated and hopeless. Life seems impossible. And that situation can only be made worse if you are constantly bombarded by another flaunting that they have what you do not.

Our personal deep inner pain only becomes bigger and deeper when we see others having what we want. Whether it be children, a good job, or health, it only hurts more to see others living our dream. It makes us wonder more why we are left without it.

Hannah’s husband saw her deep sadness. He wanted her to be happy. He loved her whether she had children or not. But she knew in her heart the disgrace of not having children and there was nothing that could comfort her. Elkanah’s is not the only one who saw Hannah’s brokenheartedness. The Lord saw her pain also.

Psalm 34:19 says,

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Yet, when we are hurting we wonder, ‘where is God?’ There are many books written on this subject, and in the books of the Bible we see many men and women suffering greatly. And at times we see the Lord change the circumstances, or answer the prayer immediately in just the way the person requests. But that is not always true. Sometimes we must wait… and wait.
There is a song that I knew years ago, but only remember one line from it right now. This line has carried me through pain and desperation because it points me in the right direction. The line I am speaking of says this, “When you can’t see His hand trust His heart.”

I know, those words do not give you what you long for right this very minute in terms of the money, the job, or a child or whatever it is. Yet, the reality of truth is that God is a God of love. His heart is full of love!  It is this exact love that made Him send Jesus into this world to die for us and give us the opportunity to believe and be saved. It may seem to us at times that God is cruel, or the things He does just do not make sense, and we wonder why He does the things He does. Why must we wait? Why don’t things turn out the way we think is best? We have to remember that God is our loving parent, our Heavenly Father, and He knows what is best. I know all too often, that is not what we want to hear. We just want Him to make life easier and give us what we want.

I have learned that when I look to Him and trust Him to give me His best, His perfect gift in His perfect timing, it is always much better than what I thought I wanted or needed at the time.

So in the midst of our brokenheartedness, our desperation, or our depression, we must turn to the Lord and say, “Lord give me Your best, I trust Your heart of love for me.” And we must wait on Him to meet us with it in His perfect timing. We must trust His heart of love to give us the best gift for us.

He is with us in our pain and knows exactly what the longings of our hearts are. He also knows that we need the Giver more than the gift, and sometimes we lose sight of that. So today look to the Giver, our God of love, and tell Him of your desperation, and ask Him to give you His best answer. Tell Him you want His best for your life and wait patiently trusting His heart of love. He will not disappoint you!

 

Advertisements

A Look at Depression: Elijah

DEPRESSION CAN BLIND US TO GOD’S LOVE!

Elijah is another man in the Bible who suffered with depression. 1 Kings 19:4-19 shares the details of what Elijah experienced.

Elijah’s depression struck him after he had had a mountain-top experience with the Lord. He had prayed and asked the Lord to prove Himself as God and the Lord did just that in a miraculous way. The people were in awe. You can read specifically about this highpoint in Elijah’s life in 1 Kings 19:16-39.

It was following this that a woman named Jezebel, a wicked queen of that time, began to threaten Elijah’s life and Elijah ran scared. He literally ran for more than eighty miles. He fled to Beersheba and then went deep into the wilderness. There he crawled under a broom tree, exhausted and feeling great despair. He cried out to the Lord and asked the Lord to let him die.

Often in the depths of depression, people lose hope to the point of wanting to end their life. The sadness becomes overwhelming. And all of life can weigh you down.

The feelings of not wanting to live life can consume you. It is especially important during these times to have the support of a Christian counselor, a medical doctor, or a psychiatrist to help keep you safe. But beyond that, above all, it is important to remember who God is, and to remember His love for you.

Elijah lost sight of what the Lord had just done for him and he ran in fear, not consulting God for help, direction, or protection. He forgot about God’s presence and love.

Sometimes when life feels so heavy, we become very overwhelmed and only look inward. We live consumed with our feelings; drowning in our pain, in our needs, and in our fears. We become blind to the Lord reaching to us.

I know in my depression I was consumed with the fear of not having what I needed, I never realized how a death of a loved one early in my life, the loss of that very special relationship, had affected me so deeply. I had buried the pain and loss. The fear of losing again, the fear of not having the love I needed overwhelmed me. The grief I had not dealt with buried me under its heaviness. I didn’t see how the Lord’s love could meet me and satisfy me. I only could feel the desperation of my heart.

Right now, as I look back at that time I realize how my lack of seeing God’s love propelled me into greater hopelessness. I only need to look at the Lord’s response to Elijah to realize the depth of God’s love for him to begin to know the reality of it for me.

It seems the most human reaction to Elijah’s behavior would have been frustration, like, “Are you kidding me?” It seems like the Lord could have been a bit angry with him, “how could you forget what I just did for you? How could you forget to even call on Me?”

But no, that is not God’s response at all, instead the Lord meets Elijah in his neediness, in his deep exhaustion and the Lord cares for him. He lets Elijah sleep. He gives him food and drink.

What love! I needed that kind of non-judgemental, ever-present kind, gracious love. I needed someone to see the pain and fear within as I journeyed through my depression. But I missed it for a long time.

The Lord saw Elijah’s need and met him in it. And the Lord did see my need too, and He met me in my need as well. It just took me a long time to recognize Him in the middle of my anguish, because I was looking for a different answer.

The Lord sees the deepest needs of our hearts in a very real way. He knows the pain, the loss, the emptiness, the fear, whatever we are experiencing, He knows. And He is here. He comes to us with His loving presence and the tenderness of His care. He works to restore our brokenness. He picks up the pieces of our hearts and our lives, and puts them back together with the glue of His love. He shows us the way out. He gives us guidance and purpose. He doesn’t rush us but helps us to see Who He is, He helps us to see that He is all we need. He is the One Who fills our hearts with joy, and wraps us in His peace. And above all He holds us in His love.

What more could one want or need? Yet, our hearts get set on a desire, or on something we feel we can’t live without and we miss the Lord’s love. The only love that can fill our emptiness in a perfect way.

There are so many lessons to be learned from Elijah’s story, but the one that stands out to me the most is that our God is a personal God full of tender love. And it is in that love that He meets us in our pain, despair, and anguish. He comes alongside and helps us to see. He helps us to see Who He is and that He is for us and that is one of the most important things one needs to know in the loneliness and desperation of depression.

The Lord gives our hearts a reason to hope in a time when there doesn’t seem to be any hope. We must cling to the hope of His everlasting love and to the reality of His presence. He is with us through it all and He is faithful!

Next week I will continue to look at depression in the Bible in the story of Hannah.

Cultivate Gratitude in Life

When we are little our parents are frequently reminding us to say thank you, whether it is for the lollipop given by a friendly cashier, or a birthday gift from grandma and grandpa, they encourage us to remember our manners.

Having a grateful spirit doesn’t come naturally, it seems so much easier to grumble and complain and even when we remember to say than you often they are just words without the heart of gratitude.

I want to cultivate a heart of gratitude. Not just saying thank you for sweet surprises and gifts from family or friends but being grateful to the Lord throughout the moments of my day.

I am finding that in choosing to be more present, I am recognizing more gifts in my day-to-day life. It is often easy to be grateful about large awesome gifts but the less obvious we frequently miss.

This week we had some snow, I woke up to see my yard look like a beautiful winter wonderland. The tree branches were covered with snow. The ground was white, and the snowflakes continued to fall adding to the inches that were down. I went out to shovel in the cool crisp air and marveled at the beauty of it all. I said “thank you” to the Lord. I thought, if snowflakes were blessings, I suddenly had become rich, but my thinking was wrong. The Lord showers me with many blessings everyday they just are not always as visible as the snow blanketing the ground. I miss them in my busyness. There is so much to be thankful for.

The Bible is filled with verses giving words for our thanks. Some of my favorites are:

1 Chronicles 16:39 “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Psalm 9:1 “I will give thanks to you LORD, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 107:8-9 “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

1 Corinthians 15:57 “…but thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

The themes for giving thanks that we see here are for

  • the Lord’s goodness
  • the Lord’s love
  • the Lord’s wonderful deeds
  • the Lord’s meeting our needs
  • the Lord victory through Jesus
  • good things
  • God’s grace

Think about how the Lord has shown His goodness and His love to you? What wonderful deeds has He done on your behalf? How has He met your needs? How has He given you victory through Jesus? What good things has He given you ? How has He been gracious unto you? I don’t know about you but just thinking about the answers to these question leads me to quite a list of reasons for thanksgiving.

I am realizing being thankful is something you have to be intentional about. This year I am choosing to do just that. I began highlighting verses in my Bible that spoke of thankulness. I also am keeping a gratitude journal, although, honestly, I am more consistent some days than others. It is also my hope to be more spontaneous with saying thank you to the Lord and others throughout my days. I am often not very observant, my husband will do something and two weeks later I will make mention that it got done, and then he will tell me it was done days ago. I want to do better with that.

It truly is the little things in life that matter, like the unexpected text from a friend or a call from my husband. Or the time taken to share lunch with a friend you rarely see. There is so much to say thank you for.

There are so many little things that can go unnoticed because we are focused on expectation of greater things. or because the negative things in life seem to loom larger than the positives that seem more trivial.

But taking time to thank the Lord for the gifts He bestows on us as well as thanking those around me is something I want to work on in 2018.

Is cultivating gratitude something that you are doing this year? Please share what is helping you.

Love in the Loneliness

Until I find community enough in being with Jesus first, the entire restaurant wouldn’t suffice the aching that loneliness hungers to fill.”
Choosing Real Bekah Jane Pogue

Loneliness is very common. Loneliness is a neediness within that eats away at your heart like a cancer.

Loneliness is defined as a “sadness because one has no friends or company.” I think that at first glance this definition may seem true, but when you really think about it, loneliness can be present even in a crowd. It is the depth of connection with a spouse or a friend that bridges the gap. You don’t feel lonely when you feel understood, known, loved, and you’re your heart is safe.

I learned through my depression that the pain and neediness of my heart cried out for understanding and love. My depression left me feeling as if I was drowning, suffocating, and overwhelmed with so much pain. I mostly pushed people away, but when I found that my neediness wouldn’t annihilate another, then I would cling. It was through this that I learned how needy I really was, I became aware of the emptiness and loneliness of my heart. I recognized how much I had been hiding, how deeply my real self was really buried.

It was in the midst of learning these things, in the midst of my clinging to another in hopes for healing, that the Lord made me to know that He wanted me to give Him my neediness.
It is so easy for us to run to others with our needs even when we know that the Lord is the One with the power to heal, to comfort with His love, to give understanding, and to lead in His perfect wisdom.

The Lord wants us to run to Him with our neediness and loneliness. It was when I began to pour out my heart to the Lord, and really give Him my neediness that my healing began. He desired me to see Him as my greatest need, the All-Sufficient One, my Healer.

Life can just be lonely because of the mundane of everyday. We get so busy with all we try to do that our lives may be spent in living solitary lives. If that is where you are at, Pogue suggests that “maybe solitary isn’t something we need to run away from” instead she suggest it may be our cue of to run to the Lord.

Loneliness can flood your heart throughout many moments of life for many very different reasons, the loss of friendship, the death of a loved one, moving away, isolation, or divorce. It is in these times we need to cry out to the Lord. Maybe it’s just the day and the way it’s going down, or maybe it’s the place you are in life right now, that the string of days, weeks, or even months leave you feeling lonely. Cry out to God. He hears and He answers our prayers. He deeply cares about the neediness in our hearts.

Remember, after you give the Lord the neediness of your heart to look for His answer. It is easy to miss His answers when one’s mind is set on wanting the prayer answered in our own specific way. I share this thought out of my own experience, because it was what happened with me in my depression. I knew what I felt my heart needed and I prayed for the Lord to do it my way. Instead, He showed me His way repeatedly, He wanted me to trust Him with my neediness. He wants to be the One we run to, He wants to be the One to meet our needs in the perfect ways that come out of His wisdom and love.

So, from our knees in prayer, we must get up and look to see what He is doing, where He is leading, who He is bringing or in some cases, whom He has already brought that we have missed. He knows who He has put in your life, or wants to put in your life. He knows the purpose for which He brings them.

I believe that as He sees and hears us bringing the neediness of our hearts, He will lead us to the quenching of the thirst in our loneliness through relationship with Himself, as well as with specific people He puts in community around us. He has a beautiful way of touching our neediness with His love so specific to our personal desires. He truly satisfies our hearts when we give Him the need and trust Him for the answer.

Are you lonely today? Call out to the Lord with your need.

Do you know someone who is lonely? Ask the Lord if there is a way to meet that person with His love.

The Lord is always near and never will abandon or forsake us. In moments of loneliness cling to Him and watch Him work! He is at work because He loves you!

My Response to “The Broken Way”

This month my posts will be my personal response to Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way. I have both read and listened to her book repeatedly. The Lord has used it to transform my heart and change some of the ways I have been thinking.

Each post this month will center around a word or concept that I have found key to this books message. Here is a quick preview of what you can expect . The key concepts for my posts will be:

  1. Brokenness.  Ann’s transparency about her brokenness brought me to tears. She was vulnerable and open about the pain she has dealt with in her life. She helped me to see brokenness in a new way. It has been in a way that has had deep importance in my relationship with the Lord and in my response to life. She revealed to me a path that can fills our hearts with hope in the midst of brokenness. It is changing how I interact with others. Brokenness often paralyzes us in traps of fear and aloneness but Jesus draws us into communion, intimacy, and love. We can travel through these beautiful paths together in our brokenness because of Jesus, just writing those words makes me excited to learn more, how about you?
  2. Givenness. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)   Givenness is about surrender and sacrifice. The Lord “gave” so that we as believers could have eternal life. Ann shared a lot about living a given life. Two questions came to mind frequently as I read her book. How can I live a surrendered and sacrificial life? How can I learn to live generously and be open-handed? I want to share some personal insights about givenness. Living given truly is living in Christ-likeness.
  3. Joy. Ann explains in her book that the joy in our hearts depends on the depth of our thankfulness. I am realizing how in order to feel gratitude in my heart it begins with learning to be fully present, fully aware of the Lord, and of how He blesses me. Moment-by-moment I need to be alert to Him. Only when I recognize His blessings can I respond with thanksgiving. And it is in the depths of gratitude filling my heart where I will find joy bubbling over into my life. I want to explore the path leading to joy. I frequently find that what I expect to bring me joy does not do so. The Lord knows what satisfies our hearts and it is so different from what we may be seeking.
  4. Love. We are all desperately in need of knowing we are loved and we all express that need so differently. Ann shares that everything we do and say is a call to be loved. She says we are asking, “Will you love me?” It is funny how you may recognize that feeling or need in yourself, but never really think that anyone else could feel so needy. I realize that I knew/know my cry for love in my life, but I didn’t generalize the reality of this neediness for love to others around me or to people as a whole. Reading about this has caused me to look at people, in general, in a different way. And it somehow changes my response to them. It is in recognizing this truth that my love for others grows in so many ways. It is vital to my life as a Christ-follower, but how will it change me? And how could recognizing this fact change you and your response to others?
  5. Time- A “Pocket of Possibility.God gave us time and each day is filled with opportunities. Some opportunities come in the form of interruptions. The Broken Way helped me to look at time in a different light. I am seeing the importance of considering why the Lord places certain people in my life and what opportunities I have for touching them with His love. I want to dig deeper into my need to abandon selfishness and open up with availability to God’s interruptions. I want to discover how to use the pockets of time I so often determine as mine, not selfishly, but for Him. Do you have these same struggles? Let’s take some of our precious God-given time to look at how God looks at time, interruptions, and what He wants for us.
  6. Grace. Grace, God’s grace is everything to us as believers. The Lord knew that the human race was prone to sin and continues to be. He knew our need for Jesus. His Word tells us our need to repent. We as Christians know this, but what role does it play in your life? Ann made me realize the correlation between my need for repentance and how that gives space for God’s grace in daily life. Ann’s discussion of this in her book ripped my heart open. It made me ask myself some hard questions. How significant does sin have to be in order for it to cause me to repent? And how does that correlate with what part grace has in my life?  The Broken Way made me really think about my sinfulness, my need for grace, and the importance of repentance on a day-to-day basis. What does this mean for me in the course of a day? And, what needs to change in my life? What role does repentance have in your life and where do you find grace in your days? I think that making this real will help us feel the Lord’s love for us more. His grace shows the extravagance of His love. Who wants to miss out on knowing that?
  7. Abundance. How does it all fit together? How can we, the broken, come to know and live out of the abundance the Lord offers us? That is the million dollar question. I want to examine that. What does abundance mean for us as Christians? And how do we find it?
  8. Finally, I want to look at Communion– such a beautiful word, a beautiful picture of union with Him. Our broken hearts and lives shared in amazing intimacy. It is what we all need, what we all crave. It is why Jesus came to earth. What does communion mean for us, the body of Christ, and what are we missing that is so vital? What did Jesus mean for us to have, that we so often overlook? These are some of the questions I want to explore.

There is so much here to digest. I want to take it in and learn to live it out. I hope you will join me as I try to find the path to living this broken life for the Lord’s glory, because it is all about Him.

All Praise to God- Psalm 34

I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are discouraged take heart.”

 Psalm 34:1-2 NLT

This psalm is written by David during one of the many difficult times in his life. Praising God is good for the discouraged heart. David had much to be discouraged about in his life, especially with Saul chasing after him, threatening his life. David was often in danger, and yet he chose to praise the Lord.

Psalm 34 gives us many reasons to praise God, no matter what your circumstances are in life.

One of the first thing David mentions in this psalm that he is thankful for answered prayer. There is so much to pray about in life, and the beautiful thing is, the Lord is interested in every aspect of our lives. He loves us so much, and nothing can separate us from that love (see Romans 8:31-39).

I know I have read those verses in Romans so many times but recently I realized that I don’t really know His love in a way that keeps me trusting all of the time. He is teaching me about His love in amazing ways. His love is the love of a perfect parent, a love that we rarely experience in relationships with humans on this earth. His love is unconditional, it doesn’t get taken away when you blow it bad. He doesn’t give guilt trips, or tell you how rotten you are.

Our sin just makes the Lord sad, because He knows how much it hurts us and it hurts Him. He doesn’t want us to follow a bunch of rules to be good just for the sake of being good. Sometimes we act as if we think we can make Him love us more by being good, but that is not possible. He wants to protect us by leading us in paths of righteousness.

David knew God’s love, he trusted that love, and he prayed to the Lord, looking for Him to answer his prayers. He expected the Lord to answer. He expected God to hear him and respond to his concerns. And, David learned that God was faithful.

Praise God for answered prayer, whether it is for a close parking space, or for a healed body, praise God!

David learned that in his fears and in his suffering he could cry out to the Lord and he would faithfully answer him.

David praised God for guarding him and being his Rescuer. God rescues those who fear Him (vs. 7). He rescues those who call to Him for help (vs.17). He rescues those who are crushed in spirit (vs. 18). He rescues those facing trouble (vs.19).

Can you see God’s awesome love for His children in this psalm?

Have you experienced the Lord answering your prayers?

Do you have any fears? Take them to the Lord in prayer and watch Him work.

Do you need any help in any areas of your life? Pray, He is our Rescuer.

Are you brokenhearted or crushed in spirit? Draw near to God, He is close to you.

If there is any trouble in your life, pray and look for His answer. And if you have prayed and He has given answer, praise Him for His faithfulness. Or maybe His answer hasn’t come yet or at least not in the way you desire. Trust the magnitude of love the Lord has for you. He will satisfy the desires of your heart. Praise Him!

David also praises God for His goodness (vs.5). David recognizes that God is the one who meets the needs of His people. He tells us in vs. 9 that those who honor Him will have all they need, and in vs. 10 those who trust in Him will never lack any good thing. 

How is God demonstrating His goodness to you? Was it the beautiful sunrise this morning? Or was it that phone call from a friend just when you were at your breaking point? Was it that word from Him as you read your Bible this morning that you knew was just for you? Praise God for his goodness.

Has God met any of your needs today? Praise Him! James tells us that all good gifts come from our Father in heaven (see James 1:17)!

David continues in this psalm by praising God for His protection (vs.20). God takes care of us, He protects us from harm. He delivers us out of danger. He watches over us. He never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4).

Finally, David praises God for redemption (vs.22). God redeems us. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sinfulness. He raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus reigns eternal as our Savior, Lord and King! Praise God!

Give thanks to the Lord for all He has done, is doing, and will do. He is faithful to do what He says He will do. Praise Him for His love for you!