El-Roi

Invisible

Do you ever feel that way?  No one sees you?  No one knows you?

I do.  Tucked away in my little corner of the world.  I wonder if anyone sees how hard I worked today.  Sees that my heart was broken.  That I wasn’t sure how to deal with the life change.  I wonder if anyone sees that good decision I made.  Or even that bad one.  Is there anyone who even sees me enough to know what’s going on in my life?  Or am I invisible?  Or even worse, is the real me invisible?  Do they see me and judge me, but don’t really know me?  Don’t really see my soul?

When I first started looking at the names of God, this one jumped out immediately.

El-Roi – the God who sees.

The first time its used in the Bible is when Hagar talks to God.

Hagar.  Out in the desert.  Completely invisible.  Scorned and cast aside by those who should have loved her.  Those who should have taken care of her.  It says that Sarai dealt hardly with her.  All of this after Abraham and Sarai had wronged her!

Hagar was at the worst point in her life so far.  Pregnant and alone.  Out of options.  All of this not of her own doing.  After all, it was Abraham and Sarai who hatched this grand plan.  And then expected Hagar to deal with the consequences.

She stops at a well and an angel of the Lord comes to her.  Tells her what to do.  Gives her some promises.  Then says these comforting words…because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.

She responds by calling God El-Roi, Thou God seest me.  You know, if you read Hagar’s story, it doesn’t really get that much better for her.  But in all she went through, one thing stuck out to her.  That God saw her.  Really saw her.  And her affliction.  She didn’t call Him Provider or Saviour.  What really comforted her was that God saw her.

And God sees me.

And God sees you.

Even when things are hard.

Even when people misunderstand you.

God sees you.  And loves you.

God sees your broken heart, your rejection, your insecurities, your intentions, your hopes, your dreams, your defeats.  He sees the way that person treated you, your labour of love, your faithfulness in the small.

Do you feel invisible today?  Because you’re not.  Be comforted that our God is El-Roi, the God who sees.

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Run

Run.

Yesterday I dropped the kids off at basketball camp, walked back in the door, saw the work, and my only thought was, run.

Some days I call it depression, some days I just say, I don’t want to do today, and some days I want to run.  I stood there and every fibre of my being, every desire of my heart told me to run away.  I know there is no perfect place but I still long to go looking for it.  I imagine things would be better if I was by myself, or if I was on a beach, or if I could just go somewhere with no work and netflix for a day.  I think the official term is escapism, but I was fixated on one word.

Run.

Things have been a little rough lately.  There have been some serious relationship problems.  Some deep thoughts and questions I’ve been having.  Some planning for the future.  Renovating.  Moving last week.  Still renovating and unpacking.  No stove.  Pain levels creeping up.  The biggest and busiest camps starting next week.  I stood there in the middle of the mess that is my house and wanted nothing so badly as to

Run.

Between my mood and my migraine, I spent most of the day in bed.  And by most of the day, I mean except driving the kids back and forth and feeding people three times and switching a couple of loads.  You know.  The essentials.  I knew the best thing for me was rest and so I didn’t run.  I stayed.  I didn’t fight amazingly well, but I didn’t run either.  I rested and chatted with Michael about how I was feeling.  When I woke up this morning, I rushed around getting the kids off to basketball camp, we jumped in the car, and then it was like God spoke to me.

Run.

Go ahead and run.

Just run to me.

I started praying, but words were hard to form.  I just had this image of Jesus standing there with his arms outstretched, waiting for me to run to Him instead of run away.  I told Him I was completely overwhelmed, discouraged, but still, just this image.  I finally in my mind’s eye just ran to Him.  I could give you details on how He worked out so many things to help me in just one day, but I’ll just leave it at one word.  Peace.  Peace has flooded my heart today.

Since that moment in the car, this old song that I haven’t sung or heard in years kept playing through my head.

I run to the Rock of my salvation, run to the Stone that the builders rejected, run to the Mountain and the Mountain stands by me.  When the earth all around is sinking sand, on Christ the solid rock I stand, when I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.  Proverbs 18:10

Run.

Just run in the right direction.

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Not Exalted

Some people are really good at realizing what is truly of worth in life.  They value relationships over doing, know how to measure worth, think eternally, know more about being a good christian instead of just trying to check things off a list.

I am not one of those people.

I used to always think that if I was busy enough, doing enough things, doing the right things, volunteering for everything, keeping all the balls in the air while keeping the joy of the Lord, that meant I was a successful Christian.

Then I got sick.  After a few years the pain got intense and I could no longer keep all the balls in the air.  I had to stop volunteering for everything.  Some days I stayed on the couch all day and “did” absolutely nothing.  My pain affected more than my body.

My ego was crushed.

How would people know I was a great Christian?  More importantly, how would I know?  There’s no published check list for people in their early 30s who should have boundless energy but have days they can’t function.

If we go back to our study in II Corinthians 12, Paul says that one reason his thorn in the flesh was given to him was so that he would not be exalted.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”

Let me tell you, it works.

It taught me that there is nothing good that I can do outside of God.

Paul makes it clear as the chapter goes on that he wants God to get the glory.  I loved serving God and probably would have told you that I was giving God all the glory, but I honestly never really thought much about needing God’s help to serve Him.  The days that forced me to pray, “Dear God, please help me be able to walk as many hours as I need today” showed me exactly how weak I was and how much I needed to depend on God.  I still try to do as much as I can for God, and since I’m having a great year health wise its been a little easier, but I still have enough pain to remind me who I need.  Sometimes giving God the glory is not just a public thing like saying “praise the Lord” when someone likes your special music.  For me, it had to become much more an attitude of the heart.  A realization of who is really doing the work in my life.

It taught me to be more humble.

I still have a long way to go!  So, so long.  As I’ve mentioned before, I spent some time saying to myself, “I am a servant, I am a servant”.  I think it must not be working well because I have a friend who added, “servanthood and humility”.  I even got sent a reference:)  By the way, I’m giving this friend a hard time, but its amazing to have a friend to work on spiritual things together with.  Humility started its work in me just because my ego was crushed, but one way that pain has taught me to be more humble is how I look at others.  Most people have no idea on the days that I can’t get out of bed, but I would never have looked at others and wondered what was going on in their lives either.  Its amazing what pain in our own lives can do for our compassion for others!  I now know what it is to not be able to do life because of pain or depression.  There are so many things that go on in others hearts, minds, and bodies that I have no idea about, yet its so easy to judge them based on what I see a few minutes a week.

Pain, such a love hate relationship.  If I could choose to wake up tomorrow and never have pain again, I would.  But the growth that comes from pain is life changing in a way that nothing else can be.  Just one more lesson from II Corinthians 12 to come.

Lessons From Pain


Lessons from Pain – Not a Fool

Its commonly accepted that teenagers are supposed to be know-it-alls and foolish, but I find its a bit different when you meet someone who is now well into their 20s and still thinks they know it all and are still foolish.  The one is easy to live with, the other, not so much.  I’ve found myself thinking, they need life to knock them around a little.  Problem being, I’m pretty sure I was one of those people!  By my mid 20s, life had already knocked me around a little, but my dutch stubbornness was showing.  I was very black and white, had little compassion, and was far too focused on the here and now.  As I started to learn a few lessons from pain, and to be truly thankful for its role in my life, II Corinthians 12 jumped out at me.

Throughout his writing Paul often lists his accomplishments juxtaposed by his faults and his belief that he was the chief of sinners.  But in this chapter, he gets real about a hardship in his life, his “thorn in the flesh”.  He’s honest in saying that he wishes he didn’t have it, had asked God to take it away, but he sees the benefits in his life.  The first benefit is listed in verse 6.

“For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.”

Paul saw this thorn in the flesh, this pain of some sort in his life, as a deterrent to becoming a fool.  It kept him from being a know-it-all who thought very highly of himself.

There are many types of fools in the Bible, but the lesson that I learned from pain was to not be a fool that only focuses on the temporal instead of the eternal.  Like the foolish virgins in Matthew 25 who were not prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom, the rich man in Luke 12 was a fool because he was only focused on the present and temporal.

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:  And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?  So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

There is something about pain that makes you long for Heaven.  I honestly forget what its like to live without being in pain every day, but I can sure dream about Heaven!  Of course there are many more important and spiritual things to look forward to, but that’s definitely close to the top of the list for me!  Its so easy to forget that we are strangers and pilgrims here.  So easy to be constantly worried about the temporal instead of building treasures in Heaven.  Its so hard to keep our hearts focused on what really matters and sometimes we need a little nudge to remind us what life is really about, why we’re really here, and that this is not our home.

I love these verses in Hebrews 11, the great “faith chapter”.

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly”

They didn’t just believe in the promise of Heaven, they were persuaded, embraced it, confessed it, and were mindful of it.  If only every day, I could be persuaded to embrace the eternal.  Pain has taught me to desire a better country, and for that, I am grateful.

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Lessons From Pain Intro

Six years and eight months ago I woke up with a tingling sensation in my left hand.  When it didn’t pass for the whole weekend, I made an appointment with my doctor.  Thinking it might be carpal tunnel, even though it didn’t fit that very well, we made an appointment for the first of many, many tests.  By the time I had that first test the tingling had spread all the way up my arm.  In the next several months it continued to spread until a year later I had tingling on the entire left side of my body.  Its a very strange feeling.  My left eyeball tingles but my right one doesn’t.  The left side of my tongue tingles but the right side doesn’t.  Around six months into the process, the tingling started to be accompanied by pain.  I have three types of pain.  General muscle pain like the kind that happens when you do a new workout, sharp shooting pain that is completely random, and a bone pain that literally feels like someone is taking a tool and scraping the bone.  Thankfully that one only happens in my arm and fingers.  All of this is completely limited to the left side of my body.  By the time a year had passed I was on painkillers twice a day.  The doctors were sure that I had MS because it was limited to the left side, but could find no evidence of it.  I had three MRIs (which are horrible torture devices), countless blood tests, brain tests, and a horrible muscle test where they stick two needles in you and send a shock through one and use the other one to measure the reaction.  Being sick is not very fun.  The worst part is that over six years later, I still have no diagnosis.  I’ve actually had three doctors tell me that I am just plain weird.  Yup.  That’s pretty reassuring.  Years of tests and constant disappointments took their toll.  It was a constant emotional roller coaster or thinking that I was finally going to have some answers, but finding none.  A couple of years ago I stopped going to the doctor all together.  I still have no answers.  But at year two I started seeing a homeopath.  I am currently on no medication and am starting to now actually see some upward progress.  For years we were just able to control everything and stop it from getting worse but with the introduction of an osteopath, I’m starting to actually make progress towards getting better.

Being in pain every minute of every day is a life changer.  There are days that it hardly affects my life, but I have spent many days relegated to the couch.  There have been times that I pilled up pillows in specific ways because I was in so much pain that the couch felt too hard.  Some days I can get on the floor and play with my kids, other days I can’t get out of bed.  I’ve learned to regulate my life to avoid episodes.  I have to get the proper amount of sleep all the time, exercise is a huge help, and I try to avoid stress and over scheduling.  Although with three kids and ministry, that’s completely impossible at times.  Living in pain becomes a way of life.  I had to quit studying piano and I just know that after a trip to Chicago, I’m going to need a few days to recover.  While its not fun, and I’ve had to give some things up, I fully expected that at the rate I was going I would need assistance walking around year 4-5, so I am so incredibly thankful that whatever this is has slowed down and I can still live a mostly normal life.

My pain is physical, but everyone has pain.  Just because everyone’s isn’t physical or every day, doesn’t mean that everyone doesn’t experience a great deal of pain in their lives.  Because of the nature of mine, I’ve done a lot of study about the lessons I can learn from pain.  Mostly because I was really hoping if I hurried up and learned the lessons, God would take it away!  But He hasn’t, and I’ve had time to learn a lot of lessons.  So I wanted to start a blog series on the lessons from pain.  I think that lessons from pain can apply to anyone in any situation because lets face it, life is painful.  No one’s life is as rosy as is appears to others.  If there would be any silver lining to pain, it would be to be a blessing to others.  We’ll walk through some Bible verses, learn from some Bible characters, and just enjoy a good study.

Lessons From Pain


Kindle E Book Is Available!

I got an email from Amazon this morning saying that my book is now live and available for download!!  If you have any sort of device, you can download the Kindle app for free and then you can purchase my book:)  Its been a crazy weekend of figuring out all the technical stuff to get it up there, but Amazon made it as easy as possible.  Plus it was all worth it to see this –

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🙂

Anyways, here is the Link for purchase on Amazon.ca, but if you search for A New Song on Amazon.anything its available there too!


Memory Verses

There are now two more verses for you on the Downloads page.  One was the request of a dear friend and the other is for my seven year old daughter who is afraid of everything right now.  Seriously, as in, if she has to brush her teeth at the other end of the house (which is only about 25 feet away from the kitchen) we have to go sit by the bathroom door until she’s done because its totally scary down there:)

Also a friend of mine from Family Camp, also named Jen and also a blogger, used one of the downloads in a great idea for her family – a display book on the kitchen table full of important things.  You should check it out!  You’ll enjoy her story and her blog – Beautiful Calling.

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My book is here!!

So, last year, I wrote a book and today I got to hold a copy in my hands for the first time!  Its been such a special day.

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It all started last January when I got asked to give my testimony at Bible Baptist Church about dealing with my depression.  (You can read that testimony here)  Right after the service, Pastor Stone approached me and told me I should write a book.  I laughed it off, but then he drew me aside and said he was serious and his printing ministry would publish it if I would write it.  The weird thing was that he wasn’t the first one to tell me that.  So I muttered something about thinking about it:)  The more I thought about it, I realized that God was practically dumping this opportunity in my lap!  I figured I better say yes:)  So some time in January, I started writing.  It took me until September, but 21,096 words later, I was done!  Then it was five months of editing, cover designing and printing.  This morning I got the email that the books were ready to pick up.  Pastor Stone said he would send them with my in-laws and I could get them at our family dinner on Sunday.  My response was that I couldn’t possibly wait that long and I would be there in an hour:)  May I also just say, its amazing having children old enough that you can decide to take off for a couple of hours and they can watch themselves and even practice piano while you’re gone:)  Anyways, off Michael and I went to pick them up.  I thought I might throw up or cry the whole 45 minutes there but once I had one in hand, I just couldn’t stop smiling:)

This whole process has been very special for me.  I love words, so it was a great opportunity, but more than that, spending several months of free time in God’s word and seeing Him guide me was amazing.  Even if no one else is blessed by this book, I was!  But my prayer is that God will take my feeble attempt at writing and use it to bless someone’s life.  Of course I have goals and sometimes I dream late at night about where this could lead, but mostly I just hope that people are helped.

Psalm 40:3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.

In the next few weeks, it should be available as an e-book on Amazon.  Assuming I can figure out all those instructions:)  For now I have a couple hundred in my mini-van and they will be available at my church and whatever conference I’m at over the year.  Most of the proceeds will go to BPS Canada.  They are an awesome ministry that sends out John and Romans to homes around the country.  Their upcoming project is to do the whole city of Ottawa and the province of New Brunswick.  I’m excited to partner with such an amazing ministry.

Thank you to those of you who supported me in this endeavour, those who encouraged me, read my manuscript, and sent me texts saying they were excited about my opportunity.  Thank you to my Pastor who wanted the very first copy:)  And thank you to my amazing husband to watched me sit at a computer a lot of nights instead of spending time with him.  No one believes in me like he does.

Its been a good day.  A very good day:)

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A New Song

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.  Psalm 40:3

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When I first started really getting a handle on my depression, Psalm 40 became my new favourite chapter.  It was around then that I decided to start blogging.  Jen’s New Song was inspired by this verse because at the time I really felt that the Lord had given me a new song, a new outlook on life.  I learned so much about coming out depression and hard times through this chapter.

The term, new song, implies hope and optimism, purpose and meaning, wonder and love for God.  But the part about this verse that is not so wonderful is the fact that there had to have been an old song before there was a new one.  In verse one and two David says that he had been in the pit.  A horrible pit.  With miry clay.  That’s exactly what I felt like when I was in the midst of depression.  Maybe you don’t struggle with depression, but you have a pit of some other making.  Sometimes my health issues feel like a pit.  Sometimes hard circumstances feel like miry clay.  Bottom line is, old songs are not happy ones.

So what if right now your life is an old song?  What can you do?  The first thing we can learn is to cry out to God.  I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.  He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.  (vs.1 & 2)  

When I went to Israel, our guide would often warn us before going into certain buildings.  They were considered holy places and we were warned to not laugh, to be very quiet, and some places we were not even allowed to speak.  I think that often we feel this is the way we must approach God.  Yes, God is holy and deserves our reverence and respect, but we are to come to Him in honesty and sincerity and to have a real relationship with Him.  Rather than the holy places in Israel, I’d like to think approaching God is more like stepping into Harvesters, my church.  Its a beautiful old building covered in wood with sunlight streaming through old stained glass windows.  But if you listen to the sounds of it, there is laughter.  Little kids running around, smiles on old ladies’ faces, tears as we share our burdens.  You cannot have a real relationship with someone and hold back parts of yourself.  God wants us to cry out to Him!  Sometimes flowery, beautiful prayers are awesome, but sometimes you need to cry out!  Be honest.  Be sincere.  Some things in life are hard and horrible and miry.  Go ahead and talk about it.

Then wait patiently.  Have hope in God.  Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.  Psalm 42:5  Help is coming.  Circumstances may change, they may not.  They may even get worse.  But help is coming.  God is hope.  Even if circumstances don’t change, if you let the Lord change you, the circumstances start looking much different.  But no change comes without opening up yourself to God.  So if you find yourself singing the same old song, maybe its time to cry out instead.  And hope.  Always hope.

Once God has given you that new song, praise Him!  Praise Him privately, but praise Him publicly too!  David says here that one of the reasons that he’s excited about his new song is that many would see it and come to God through it.  Maybe you dwelt in the pit so you would know how to help someone else out of it.  Once you’ve been in the pit, you remember how it felt so you can have empathy, and you now know the way out so you can pull someone up.

Years 2-4 of Emma’s life were like a pit for me.  Not only was I struggling with my own issues, but I had this child who just didn’t seem to get how we did things in this family!  Her older siblings would try to pull this kind of behaviour, there was a consequence, so they didn’t do it again.  Or at least not too many times.  This girl just didn’t seem to learn.  The same thing over and over.  Hours of crying.  Sometimes in one day.  Sometimes both of us at the same time:)  The story of those three years deserves its own blog post.  Or several:)  Maybe I’ll do that one day.  I could not understand why God gave me a child like this!  It went against every rule-loving bone in my body.  But eventually we both learned how to function together.  But by the time she turned five, she had her behaviour mostly under control and she’s now a semi-sweet and mostly well-behaved little girl:) Over the past two years, I’ve had a couple of young moms approach me to talk about their toddler.  Now, I’m not 100% sure Emma is actually going to turn out, so mostly I just let them know to cry out to God!  But several weeks ago, a mom started texting me at 11:30 at night.  We had a wonderful chat.  I don’t know if it helped her, but it was as though God was reiterating to me yet again that the horrible pits and miry clays can have great purpose.  I was able to sing a new song to that mom.  Don’t be afraid to sing that new song at the top of your lungs!  God deserves the praise and those around us need the encouragement and the testimony.  There is always something wonderful to sing about, if you’ll let the Lord show it to you.

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Depression

I told you that one of the things I was going to talk about this year was my struggle with depression.  Below you will find written out what I said when I was asked to give my testimony at a church about a year ago.  It was a hard process for me, but one day soon I will tell you about the many amazing opportunities that came out of it.  For now, we’ll just start with this:)

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My name is Jennifer Holmes.  I am 32 years old, wife to Michael Holmes, which also makes me a Pastor’s wife and camp-dweller, mother to three beautiful children and aunt to three more.  I am a daughter, grand-daughter, sister, teacher, friend, musician.  I am a child of God and have been for 26 years.  There is one other fact about me that touches, moulds, colours every other part of my life.  I struggle with depression.  I’ve had this struggle for more years than I haven’t.  I’ve often imagined my depression as a pit.  There have been days in my life where my pit is small, shallow, light.  It only requires a prayer, a song or a verse to climb out of.  Other days the pit seams vast, as though there is no end to the falling and the depth of it blocks out all hope of seeing the light.  It seems as though it would take a thousand verses, a thousand songs, a thousand prayers to make any difference.  It seems to me as though it is a living, breathing force that has taken over me, stealing away my energy to read those thousand verses, sing those thousand songs, pray those thousand prayers.  Some days, sometimes months, I can stay completely out of the pit.  Some days, I purposefully sit on the edge.  Some days it just seems easier to jump right in.  Even though it is dark and soul killing, it is familiar.  And sometimes familiarity wins.  Praise the Lord, my days in the pit are becoming farther apart, the time spent in there shorter.  My pit is becoming shallower, smaller.  But it is still there.  It may always be.  I hope not.  I pray that one day, my spirituality will be strong enough to always stay out, but I know that I am human and will never be sinless.  So I will continually be on guard against the falling.

If you asked me ten years ago if I saw myself standing in front of a church confessing my struggles, I wouldn’t have believed you.  First of all, I’m standing confessing my struggles in church and it isn’t even my church!  Secondly, I’ve spent most of my life trying to hide the fact that I struggle with depression.  Actually, ten years ago I may not have even admitted it to myself!  When you have had many difficult circumstances in your life, its easy to write off depression as something that you’ll get over when your circumstances change.  I could bore you with my list of  difficult situations, but suffice it to say, between circumstances, pregnancies and miscarriages, I always found a reason to write off my depression as something else.  I’ve always known that I am not a happy happy person!  I would have described myself as melancholy.  And I think that personalities play a large role in depression.  The fact that half of my family also struggles with it is another factor.  But it wasn’t until I identified it as a sin in my life that I could start to claim some victory through Christ.   Let me just interject here that I believe that some people have depression as a mental illness.  While I believe the way I am leaves me more prone to depression, I don’t believe that for me it is a mental illness.  My depression is powerfully impacted by my physical state.  I exercise, make sure I get enough sleep, watch my stress level and see a homeopath, all to combat my depression.  But for me, it is primarily a spiritual fight.  I know for me personally, the times that I fall into depression, it is a sinful state in which I am not depending on God for His strength and not practicing the truths found in God’s word.  And since God is the great physician, I believe that the truths in God’s word will work for any level or type of depression.  Always enlist the Lord on your side!

So, why am I standing here confessing my sins.  Well, that’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot over the last week.  There is a sort of tearing about this.  A stripping away of a facade that happens.  Its a scary, pride-crushing process.  I wasn’t asked to come here because of some amazing thing I’ve done, or because I’m a famous public speaker.  I am here because my struggles are now public knowledge.  This all started last year at our winter camp.  Our camp director asked us to talk to the teens about something that we struggled with when we were teenagers.  I started thinking about things I could talk to the teens about.  The list was long and I was trying to decide.  That night I spent some time in prayer about it.  It was as though God directly said, “you need to talk about depression”.  Ugh that was the last struggle I wanted to admit.  Some of the very people that I tried so hard to impress all these years were going to be in the very room where I would talk with the teens!  I kept thinking how Pastor Hollen believed I was a very good teenager who had it all together.  All those years working at Help, I was able to keep up this facade of a happy face, a well-adjusted life.  After wrestling with God, I obeyed his leading and spoke to the teens about depression.  I talked to two girls that same day.  One of the girls I have sent Bible verses to on a regular basis.  She has facebooked me at midnight and we have wrestled through issues together.  I caught a glimpse of how the Lord could take something that was a terrible thing in my life, something I constantly wished away, and could use it for good.  Why is depression so prevalent these days?  Well, I’ll leave that to better educated people to write papers on.  All I know is that it is a serious problem and I’m hoping that I can be a small part of a solution.  So, what do I want to tell you, what part of me am I hoping to leave behind as a solution?

  1. Depression doesn’t only target a certain type of person.  I can look back and see it starting as young as 14.  I didn’t start to get a handle on it until I was in my 30s.  I had many life changes in those 16 years.  It wasn’t something that I grew out of as a teenager.  It wasn’t something that started when I had young children.  I was a faithful Christian who was striving to please God.  I had daily devotions for the vast majority of those years.  I never stayed home from church just because I felt like it.  I shouldn’t have been depressed!  I had this idea that good Christians just don’t get depressed.  Most people looking into my life from the outside wouldn’t guess that I was at risk for depression.  I hid my emotions very well.  At least I’m pretty sure I did!  When I was young, I was a regular teenager, living in a Christian home with both parents.  It would have appeared to have been a great environment for turning out a well-adjusted, spiritual young person.  When I turned 20 I married a wonderful man and my life again would have looked wonderful.  And in some senses, it really was, yet I still could not find the peace I was looking for.  I don’t think at many points in my life, anyone would have looked at me and targeted me as being at risk for depression.  But there I was.  Someone who broke the mould.  I would challenge you to be aware of your family, your friends, your church family and realize that any of them could be suffering a burden that you don’t know about.  This struggle is more common than most realize.  Also, don’t think that just because you’re a good Christian that you won’t have this struggle.  It only takes one read through the psalms to see David, the man after God’s own heart, and his struggle with depression.  Many other Bible characters fought it too. Its important to learn about, because at any time this struggle could hit you.  Unexpected things happen in people’s lives every day and any one of them could cause your own struggle with depression.  One of the first people outside of my husband who really helped me was my chiropractor.  I’ll never forget the day she sat down beside me, put her arm around me and said “Jen, you really need to get help.  You have to talk to someone.”  I broke down and cried heavily in her office that day.  My chiropractor was a wonderful person who took time to really see me.  To see past the facade when most people didn’t have time to.  I’m not blaming anyone else for my struggles, I should’ve gotten help when I needed it, but I hope that its left me with a better ability to see others.  A knowledge that people are struggling in secret.
  2. Secondly, I want people to know that getting help is so important.  Why did I struggle to keep it a secret?  Why was I always hiding it? We tell people to get an accountability partner for almost everything else.  I didn’t mind asking someone to check up with me on my Bible reading, but felt I had to hide my emotional battle.  We praise the young man who comes forward and asks for help with a pornography addiction, the woman who battles anger with her kids, the teenager looking for more faith and anyone asking for help.  We rally around them, pray for them, encourage them and then go home and hide our sins away for another week.  If you can’t ask the other broken, struggling, sinning saints for help, who can you ask? Oh, I know its painful!  But its such a necessary pain.  The cutting away of pride only ever heals us.
  3. Thirdly, and most importantly, the answers are always, always in the Bible.  I have learned so many things from these past years that it would take me hours to tell you all about them but if I could make you remember just one thing it would be that God’s word has become precious to me.  God’s word was always important to me.  Always the basis of my faith and always where I looked to for guidance.  But I have to admit that it wasn’t always precious. One day I discovered anew Psalm 42.  Reading that psalm I learned a step by step plan for dealing with my depression.  I learned to sing songs in the night, to dwell on past victories, to cry out to God, to trust God’s truth and to trust Him for future joy.  I clung to it like I never had clung to God’s word before.  It became a life line.  A rope dropped into my pit.  No, more than that.  It was God’s hand reaching down into my pit and lifting me out.  I read that psalm every day for many many days as I learned more about myself, about my pit and how it was possible to live a different way.  The Bible became a living, breathing, precious book.  Some days you could’ve convinced me that God wrote that passage and saved it through the ages just for me.  After a while, other passages came up that became precious.  I’m always clinging to something now!  And that for me has made the difference.  Instead of always seeing the Bible as just something to continually strive for, it now holds me up.    My current passage is Psalm 40.

What an amazing God.  That He would take someone like me, test me, try me, use me.