“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 (NIV)
This struck me this morning. Partly because of what I’ve been going through but also because of the very truth it contains. God has been speaking to me of late about how human thought tells us that trials are bad. We think of courtrooms and judgments, lean times of desert wanderings and emotional barrenness. But God calls these places testing and proving, places of learning and working something into us. Like kneading bread, letting all the yummy things get intrinsically incorporated into the dough so the finished product is perfection. God sees trials as a furnace for perseverance and maturity not a punishment or banishment. That’s a totally different perspective.
Recently, I fell into a depression, something I’m not unfamiliar with. I saw God’s hand reach out to me and deliver me at my time of need. For years, I had depression every fall from September to November. Sometimes it was suicidal, before I had a personal relationship with God, and sometimes just a mild, dull feeling. When my daughter was born I went on anti-depressants which took the edge of emotionally, but felt like bondage. I was thrilled about 5 years ago to be able to stop taking them. Up until this recent bout, once medication free, it was more like a self-pity party. The type where loneliness and busyness meet emotions and frustration and pity sets in clouding my emotional view of truth. But this time, it was different, I felt more of everything- more alone, more pointless, more monotony, more mundane, and more hopeless. I reached out to friends in vague terms, “I’m feeling meh….I’m feeling down…I’m just ok,” and to no fault of theirs, no one responded. And the silence was deafening. So I lived routine to routine, not able to pray and knowing I should.
One day, while doing what a leader does meeting new folks who’ve come to our House of Prayer, listening to their story of God’s merciful salvation, I heard something with new ears. My pastor share about someone he was ministering to who was standing at the edge of decision and needed to choose his old identity in sin or his new identity in Christ. That precipice was very real to me and very familiar. I’d been to it many times and stood there once again. And God spoke to me as near-audible as I’ve ever heard. “Will you choose your self-identity of depression and low worth or your new identity in Christ??”
Rom 6:5-6 NKJV – For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
I have been a slave to my depression. My depression is sin. God has promised me new life, new patterns, hope, mercy and love. I have to choose these and not the other. I have to fight for what is mine in Him and refuse the old. I spoke to a psychologist over the summer, before all this depression, and he taught me that our minds hard wired with patterns of thought and those thoughts become reactions and reactions become behavior. God’s creation, human, is magnificent. He creates us unblemished and then life’s events, our reactions and our enemy’s sly tactics of attack, form in us who we become. When we come to relationship with God, often we have to get a re-wire. This is work. I can consciously strong-will my behavior to be different temporarily and I can stop my thoughts momentarily but I can’t reform the wiring in my brain permanently. I need God to do this. I need a Holy Spirit intervention. And He is faithful to my heart.
Lamentations 3:25, “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” (NIV)
I’m thankful. I give Him all the glory. I’m “no longer a slave to sin, I am a child of God.” I choose to walk out who I am in Christ every day. Progress, not perfection is my meditation.