June 1, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Climbing Out of the Pit - Part 1
Mary Southerland - Director of Networking, author and speaker
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1 (NIV)
Children are wonderfully different! When my son, Jered, was nine months old, he began to pull up on every piece of furniture that would hold his stocky frame. For weeks, he maneuvered his way around our home, until one day, he took his first step...alone! Now, it was a step of only inches but we celebrated as if he had run a ten mile race! And then there is my daughter, Danna, who crawled when she was four months old, before she could even sit up! We assumed she would be walking within a matter of weeks. Danna had a different plan! She never pulled up on a single piece of furniture. She never took a step! But one day, when she was ten months old, she simply stood up and ran across the room! Jered and Danna both walk extremely well today as teenagers, but they both began with tiny steps and with a plan uniquely their own!
Nobody becomes depressed overnight. Nobody overcomes it overnight. The journey out of the pit of depression is a process of steps uniquely planned by your Father. He is the Guide for your journey out of the darkness!
Step One: Wait for God.
In Psalm 40:1, David writes "I waited patiently for the LORD". I had always thought of waiting as passive and considered it to be of little value, even a waste. But I began to see that waiting is active and can be a powerful spiritual experience!
To wait means to accept the pit!
Picture yourself falling into a slimy pit. Your first reaction, like mine, would probably be to frantically claw and struggle, fighting your way out! Then, when you have used up all energy, you stop struggling and sit down to rest, waiting for help because that is all you can do. You have no other options. When hard times come, we immediately begin to beg and bargain for rescue...for a way of escape. He loves us too much to waste our pain! It is a shallow love that always rescues easily. It is a depthless love that always rescues quickly. Sometimes our Father says wait. So be patient, accept your pit, and know that He is at work.
To wait means to admit that there is a problem!
We can be so proud and so self-sufficient. Admitting that we are helpless and must wait on God is sometimes hard. In reality, we can learn to celebrate our helplessness. We can grow to the place of rejoicing in our weakness! Our weakness and helplessness are an invitation for the power of God to take up residence and display itself in our life! Isaiah tells us that "He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak." (Isaiah 50:29 NLT)
Instead of hiding or trying to rationalize the darkness away, we must be willing to admit that we are struggling with depression. Pride always hinders authenticity! Emotional health begins at the point of emotional integrity, when we can be truthful enough to say to ourselves and to others "I need help!" We cannot be right until we choose to be real!
To wait means to practice authenticity.
Remember that my husband was the pastor/teacher of a large, very visible and fast growing church. Dan and I had a choice to make. We could choose to be transparent and real or we could attempt to hide my struggle. We chose transparency and began to share our pain with the team that God had assembled around us. We then took an even bigger risk by sharing my struggle with the entire church.
We quickly discovered that the sharing of the crisis lessened its grip on our lives. The response to our transparency and willingness to share our pain with those who had known great pain themselves was overwhelming! People began to pray. Cards, letters and Scripture verses came pouring through the mail. Women would show up at the front door with meals. At times, others came to clean my house, do my laundry and entertain my children. Deacons would station themselves at various places in the church building during any worship service that I attended. If I got "caught" in a difficult situation, all I had to do was turn and nod to them. They would come, take me by the arm and walk me to my car with a hug and instructions to go home, assuring me that they loved me and were praying for me.
We were created to share our burdens with each other. Isaiah 35:3-4 is a clear directive! "Strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those who are afraid, 'Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.'" We need each other! A shared load is a lighter load. Transparency brings healing! Authenticity yields restoration!
To wait means to practice solitude.
In the pit, it is so dark that we cannot see! All we can do is wait, trust and rest! In the midst of my depression, I began to discover that darkness is a great place for solitude. Distractions are few. When the Light comes, it is easier to see. There are times when the silence makes His voice clear and strong!
Psalm 46:10 advises, "Be still and know that I am God." We cannot know God on the run. Solitude lets our souls catch up!
In the jungles of Africa, a tourist was taking a safari. He hired natives from a tribe to carry all of the necessary supplies. On the first day, they walked rapidly and went far. The tourist was excited because he wanted to get there quickly. On the second morning, the tourist woke early, ready to go but the natives refused to move. They just sat and rested. When the tourist questioned them, he was told that they had gone too fast the first day. Now they were waiting for their souls to catch up!
Stress, hurry, and intense activity can cause us to lose our perspective, to disconnect from ourselves and our purpose in life. The busier we are, the more we need regular solitude! I love the Greek motto that says: "You will break the bow if you keep it always bent." I broke! One of the main reasons that I broke was that solitude had never been a part of my life. I was too busy being spiritual. I was too busy trying to earn God's love and approval. I was too busy trying to be good enough! I was too busy running from the past.
During my two years in the pit, I gave up every role of leadership in order to spend time in solitude, seeking God. It felt as if I were giving up my whole identity because so much of who I was had been built upon what I did. Many times, I walked to the front door of our church, stopped and had to turn away in panic. I just could not make myself go in. As I struggled with the guilt and self-condemnation of my frailty, the Father taught me an important truth that has revolutionized my life! He is more concerned with who I am than what I do! He loves me - warts and all! If I never do another thing in the Kingdom, He still loves me. His love for me is not affected by what I do or don't do. He simply loves me! That life-changing truth was born out of darkness - in solitude.
The first step out of the pit is to wait. While we wait we must admit there is a problem, accept the pit, practice transparency and embrace solitude.
My prayer for today:
Father, I come to you - weak, tired and broken. I admit my great need for you, Lord, and choose to rest in you rather than struggle against you. By faith, I accept the darkness as an opportunity to wait at your feet, listening for your voice alone. Change me, Lord. Teach me your ways. Strip away what is not of you and let stand what is. Amen.
Set aside 15 minutes every day this week to spend in solitude with God. Record your thoughts, prayers and needs. Be brutally honest and transparent as you write. Then spend a few moments celebrating the fact that His love covers it all.
Why is it so hard to accept the dark times in life?
What is keeping me from being transparent?
Would my family and friends describe me as "authentic"?
Am I afraid of solitude? Why?
Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (NIV)
This material was taken from Coming Out of the Dark by Mary Southerland.
Dreams of a Woman by Sharon Jaynes
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa TerKeurst
Originally published Tuesday, 01 June 2004.