Friday, June 27, 2014

Thank You for the Despair?

My mother died unexpectedly four days after my youngest daughter was born, and between my grieving and my post-partum state, I dove into a wicked depression for many, many months. One Sunday afternoon, I was in my bedroom with the door locked because I was afraid my husband would walk in and see me sobbing on the floor in this pit of despair and be at a total loss for what to do – which would frighten me even more. I finally realized, I couldn't stay there on the floor; I had to do something. And for some reason, my pastor came to mind.
He only lived a few minutes away, so I called and asked if I could come over and talk. I'm not sure what I expected to get out of this – I'm sure he didn't either – but I couldn't think of anything else to do.
Talking in Pastor Jeff's living room, I finally revealed to him the thought that was haunting me: I KNEW God could lift this depression if He wanted to, but He wasn't doing it – it was like He wanted me to feel this way.
“Well,” said Jeff, “what if He does?”

I thought, what the %($*# kind of question is that?!?? He went on to talk about giants of the faith who have struggled with depression, and my brain just turned off for a while. I couldn't deal with this crazy idea.
But later that night, and the next day, that crazy idea started to take some form and resonate with me. What if God really did have a reason for allowing this pain?
I downloaded a book the other day called The Anxious Christian, and the subtitle is, “Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?” What a thought. What if this thing that we view as a curse . . . as a sign of abandonment . . . as a sign of our weakness or sinfulness . . . as something to be avoided or denied or eradicated at all costs . . . what if it is actually a tool God has given us if we're willing to accept it?
I've skimmed the book and need to read it again more closely, but the author seems to be saying that, in his own life, at least, God uses anxiety (and his was long-term and debilitating) to signal to him a need to move forward in boldness and lean on Him more. If we didn't feel that anxiety when change is pending, we wouldn't recognize how stuck we are and how badly we need the change. If we didn't feel the fear of failure, we wouldn't be driven to rely on God.
Something like that.
I never came to fully understand that day exactly why God would want me to experience such overwhelming despair. But I did come to understand that the despair wasn't going to destroy me (or God wouldn't have allowed it). And I've increasingly come to see my sad and fearful and angry feelings not as something to avoid, but as something to listen to and read and interpret . . . and walk in the midst of.
And maybe, just maybe, they are gifts. What a thought. Gotta think on that more.

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