Apparently, I’ve been on a bit of a summer hiatus from this blog, but it’s August, my husband is back on the teaching grind, and here I am.
It’s been a busy summer with potty training, family and friends visiting, and some health issues to deal with. However, it has still been a great summer. I got to spend a lot of time with my husband and my daughter. I’ve read some really good books, cooked some great-tasting food, and have gotten to know my fellow brothers and sisters at church a lot better this summer. Plus, I realized yesterday that this is the first summer since I’ve been married that I did not have to pack up things and move somewhere, and I cannot tell you how much of a blessing that really is. 🙂
But, I’ve also realized that there has been much tragedy this summer too. From militant fighting and terrorist attacks to deadly virus outbreaks and suicides, it appears that despair and death are everywhere you look. To be real, it is kind of depressing. If you watch the news, it’s one bad thing after another. If you jump on Facebook or Twitter, it’s people posting and sharing articles and opinions about the atrocities that are happening. But all of that can be set aside when you think of the despairing situations people face in their own homes. With constant arguing, fighting, needing money to make ends meet, being taken advantage of by family, friends, and even on the job, it’s not surprising to me that people fall into depression and despair.
I was reflecting on my own life this morning, and I realized that I was one of those people who despaired of life itself. Late in my high school years, I was completely depressed. I hated being at home because all I heard was fussing, arguing, and fighting. There was so much tension and anger that you could cut it with one of those cheap sporks you get from KFC. It seemed like it just kept getting worse and worse year after year. The only time I found peace at home was if I could manage to be left alone in my room to read or listen to music. But God forbid I was called to do something and didn’t answer because that peace would be gone in an instant. Thinking now, I remember hiding in my closet, laying on the floor with a pillow and a book just to “get away from it all”. Sometimes I even fell asleep there, but the aftermath of it never seemed worth it. So, I found my solace at school, sitting in the library because you had to be quiet there. I would spend my entire lunch period in the library just for the sake of quietness.
But even with these coping techniques, I was still depressed and feared that the situation would never get better. I had a relationship with God at that point, and even with praying about things, my “feeling better” only lasted until I went home. I remember that I just didn’t understand how God could be so real, so evident, but never seem to see my situation and do something about it. I thought church would be a comfort, and at times it was. But even there, being the “preacher’s kid”, I was constantly met with expectation that no one else ever seemed to have or live up to. Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. All I felt was pressure. Pressure to be a “respectable young lady”. Pressure to make the best grades and receive academic honors. Pressure to do well enough to receive a full scholarship to college. Pressure to be the “good child” my mom could count on not to stress her out. Pressure to fit in with my friends. And pressure to continue trusting in God, even when I felt like He didn’t care anything about me.
Well, finally, towards the end of high school, I had enough. I started plotting my escape. Now, I wish that meant leaving home, but no, that meant committing suicide. I started thinking about the best way to get it done where I wouldn’t lose my nerve at the last moment. I didn’t want to come close and then end up stuck at home permanently because of a disability or be in a vegetative state. I was tired, and it seemed completely hopeless. Funny thing is that I remember talking to God about what I was going to do, why I was going to do it, and even how. I don’t know why I did that. Maybe I thought I should explain myself to somebody because I surely wasn’t planning on leaving my family a note behind. But I remember doing that, and every time I was beginning to act, God kept me every single time from fulfilling my desires. It was so frustrating to me, but I knew He was still there.
So, I changed my plans, and I figured I would intentionally hurt myself bad enough so that I would have to remain in a hospital for several months until I could leave and go to college. Yes, as stupid as that sounds, that was my plan. Months in a hospital meant months away from home. It meant peace and mandatory quietness. But again, God kept me all of those times too. I cried my eyes out too many times during my senior year and that following summer….more times than I could remember. And by the grace of God, by His tender mercies, He held me through that year and that summer until I left home. Now, when I got to college I was hit with a bunch of different pressures and temptations, but I knew that God was holding on to me.
During my college years, I grew a lot in my relationship with the Lord. I spent time studying the Word and with other people outside of church. I prayed more, and began to understand things a little better. But ultimately, I was growing. And every phase of my life since then has been marked by a period of trusting in God and growing up more and more. But as I thought about all of these things this morning, I realized how much life itself is wrapped up in knowing God. Now, I’m not talking about knowing the popular Bible stories or naming and claiming things because preacher told you that was a good idea, I’m talking about growing in a solid knowledge and understanding of who God is. I’m personally doing a study through the book of Proverbs, and consider this passage found in chapter 8, starting at verse 1:
Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:
‘To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her…
[vs. 32] And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.
Now, there are plenty of passages I can pull from to make my point here, but I thought this would suffice. We cannot live this life apart from God, devoid of the knowledge of God. True, you can live and breath, but you will not actually have life itself without God. Paul told the Corinthian church in his first epistle that it was because of God’s divine decree that we “are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that , as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
I say all this to say that life, eternal life, is all wrapped up in knowing God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3). It is foolish to think that the comforts and luxuries of this earth will be enough to bring peace and joy to your soul. It’s foolish to think that you can find that peace, comfort, and satisfaction inside your own heart or through your own actions. Even death itself will not provide you with peace and consolation if you do not know and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank God for all of the phases of my life. I thank Him even for that really dark period of my life at the end of high school, for all of the frustrations at home, for all the times that I cried myself to sleep. I thank Him for those times because they are my encouragement for pressing forward now. Those times are my motivation to know more about Him, to know more about His Word, to know more of what is expected of me as His child….not that I would get stressed out and feel under pressure again. But knowing that walking and growing in righteousness is actually possible in this life because it is found in Him, and I am in Him too. It is now joy for me to know more because I know that everything I am learning is possible and will happen in Him. What amazing consolation is that!?! How can be full of despair when you know that it WILL happen in Him?
As I’ve grown in my knowledge of the Lord and His Word, I’ve dealt with less and less depression over the years. Yes, I still have times where I feel down. Yes, I still feel overwhelmed at times. But I have this amazing consolation and encouragement in Christ, and resting my eyes on Him in every single one of those moments has immediately given me strength and encouragement to keep pressing on. And one of the best parts is that God is inexhaustible…He is beyond finding out. I could spend the next 40 years studying God’s Word seeking to know Him, and I will never come to the end. Now that, that is a life well-spent.
I realize that a lot of different people read my blog. Some people have relationships with the Lord, some may be faking it, and some may not even know Him at all. My prayer for those of you that do know Him already is that you are encouraged to pursue Him still and to be diligent in knowing Him further. Regardless of the trials and circumstances of your life, I pray using the words of the first question from the Heidelberg Catechism that your comfort is knowing the fact that:
…I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.
My prayer for those of you who know Him but happen to not be living like it is that you realize that the gospel message is more than Christ saving you from hell. But the gospel message includes the proclamation that because Christ has triumphed over the works of Satan and sin, you now have the power through Christ to live and walk in righteousness, progressing in holiness until the day of the Lord. And finally, my prayer for those of you who do not know the Lord at all is that the Spirit of God would enlighten your hearts and minds that you would repent of your sins, believe the gospel message, and seek His face.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. – Titus 2:11-14