10 LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE DARKNESS

While going through several recent bouts with depression, I attempted to try to not only put into words the stuff going through my head, especially as the darkness begins to subside and light begins to creep back in, but I also wanted to see if there was anything I could learn from this time…find some purpose in it…find something that can be carried into the next dark time…find something to cling to. I know that there is a purpose for everything under Heaven, so surely He has a reason for these. Perhaps He will use these experiences in the future, but perhaps there is a more personal lesson that can be learned.

1. It is dark….some days are darker than dark – but even in the darkest of moments, He still sees. The darkness within does not block out the view of the Almighty.
(“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12)

2. It hurts… some days the pains is almost unbearable, although there is often no explanation for it, but the Father knows. Every tear we have ever cried has been seen, understood, and known.
(“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” Psalm 56:8)

3. Everything appears to be upside down and the top cannot be found. At times, it is as if you are being pulled down a spiral and there is no way to know which way is up or which way is down. It is a swirling sea of pain and darkness. But, despite all of this, He is still there, He is still holding on, and He will not let us go.
(“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b)

4. It seems to last FOREVER — and F…O…R…E…V…E…R… is no joke when you are drowning in darkness.

5. God doesn’t let the darkness remain all-consuming. He sends a ray of help at the darkest point. BUT, it is in His time and not ours, which is a tough one to swallow. Perhaps this is why I always felt drawn to lighthouses. They symbolize hope in the midst of raging storms and help to guide sailors away from the unseen ragged rocks that would dash them to pieces. He truly is our Lighthouse as He is the One who gives light in the dark, that protects us from what would crush us, and that guides us safely home.
(“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27a)

6. You are NEVER alone or unloved in the darkness, even though it may totally feel that way.
(“The LORD appeared to us in the past,[a] saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…’” Jeremiah 31:3)
(“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2)

7. Nothing seems to matter, even though everything really does – and even more so.

8. Feelings, while very frightening, are allowed and need to be released/expressed during this time. Freedom comes from expressing some of the feelings. It is almost as if that, by putting words to the feelings, they are disarmed and lose some of power.
(“The tongue has the power of life and death…” Proverbs 18:21a)
(“My tears have been my food day and night… 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:3 – 5)

9. It will end – the light will break through. Just be patient and remember to keep your head up despite the drowning sensation.
(“14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.”
“20 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”,
“29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea[b] were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:14a, 20, 29-30)

10. You will be stronger for having survived the storm.
(“2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:2-3a)

The biggest challenge for me, but one of the most crucial one, is to remember to just be still and to hold on. Even though I cannot see what is around me or where I am reaching, I must trust that when I reach out to Him, He will find me. When I grasp hold of even just the hem of His garment, He will hold onto me and will not let me go.

All that is expected of me during these times is to trust His heart and, most importantly, be STILL and KNOW that He is God.

He is in control even when the darkness surrounds and obscures all vision.
He is in control when everything around me seems to be crumbing to pieces.
He is in control in the mist of the chaos.
He is in present,
He understands, and
He will have mercy.

They dawn will break, morning will come, and He will exchange our tears for His healing, our pain for His peace, and our darkness for His light.

*All Scripture quoted is from the NIV.

3 Steps Forward, 10 Steps Back – and Have A Seat!

Oh my, what a mess!!! Ever seem to have one of those weeks where your gaze on Him has dropped and you feel as though you are going to drown? Where you fall flat on your face? Where your weaknesses are exposed and found to be so much larger than you would like them to be? Ever find yourself in a situation where you are enjoying a nice moment/conversation and a random thought comes along catching you off guard? You don’t really see the harm in it for a moment, but, before you know it, that random thought has taken hold. Maybe you don’t realize it at first, but it just kind of grows. This is a very accurate description of this past week for me – and it was all due to my own choices.

For just a moment in time, I took my eyes of my Lord and focused them on the desires of my heart. Like Peter, I began to sink quickly, but, rather than cry out to Him, I stayed in the water far too long trying to decide how “I felt” and what “I really wanted” – as if it was really about me. I chose to stay in the whirlpool rather than rest with Him in the green pastures beside the calm waters. I chose to explore areas forbidden to my soul, finding nothing but sorrow and emptiness – and possibly a damaged friendship.

As sanity has begun to return, so to speak, and restoration has started yet again, a verse from long ago was brought to mind. I have known this verse for a very long time, but I don’t think that the depth of truth contained in this verse had ever really sunk in before now. Let me assure you, the lesson has become a well learned one this week – and, unfortunately, it was a lesson that didn’t necessarily have to be taught in the first place had I kept my focus where it needed to be. Through His prophet Jeremiah, the LORD says,

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jer 17:9 (NIV)

The King James Version says that the heart is “desperately wicked” rather than “beyond cure.” A much more powerful description and, given recent events, I think the King James captures it a little more accurately. The verse that follows seems to drive the message home even harder.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their
conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jer 17:10 (NIV)

If am to be “rewarded” for the contents of my heart during this past week, I am in big trouble! However, I know I can take comfort in the promise that not only does He provide grace all sufficient during our times of need, His grace is sufficient in our weakness and His mercies are new every morning.

I cannot say this week has been wasted in all senses of the phrase. Yes, countless opportunities to be a blessing to someone else were missed. Yes, many God-sightings were missed because my focus was on other things beside Him. Yes, I missed the opportunity to find out what was around the next bend in the river because I decided to explore a different stream. However, what I did find was a new sense of adoration for my Lord and a new outpouring of grace. He remains faithful even when we are faithless.

My assurance that Jesus truly is my Messiah is stronger now because of this journey. Does that justify taking the journey? God forbid!! It does, however, prove that He is still working for our good even in the midst of our stupidity and our hardheartedness. He will turn our bad choices into something good for His glory, if we will allow Him the opportunity to do so by humbling ourselves at His feet and allowing His ever-sufficient grace, His boundless mercy, and His limitless love to revive our hearts and turn our focus back to Him.

The new prayer of my heart is this:

Wash me in the waterfall of Your mercy! Pour Your love over my sin-soaked soul so that I feel Your peace and Your grace wash over every pain, every bruise, every stain I have placed upon my heart! My soul cries out like David’s and begs You to create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me! As it is written in Psalms 139:23-24, I willingly invite You to:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (NIV)