Hello again friends! As I explained in my last post, I took the month of December off in an attempt to celebrate the great event that is the birth of our Immanuel.
And as best as we could, we did just that. We did most of the things I had hoped we'd do. We were able to read some of our advent devotional (ahem . . . some, but it was great). We crafted with friends. I made hot chocolate (they hated it, by the way). We watched movies and let the kids stay up late. I napped and generally tried to cease from my striving.
There was deep joy, but in some ways it was also dark.
One of my daughters struggled with some anxiety. There was an unsuccessful attempt (the second one) to get her cavities filled. A mild encounter with the stomach bug led to further anxiety and a bitter cursing of Adam and Eve for sending our world into such sin and sickness (at least she was somewhat theologically sound). It's hard to see your child suffer and not be able to reason her out of her fears. Anxious people can be very stubborn.
We dealt with lying and general siblings-stuck-together-in-the-house squabbling. My kids' sin and my own sinful responses to them can weigh me down.
And for whatever reason or reasons, likely a combination of the weather and the state of my own heart, I settled into a bit of a depression that still lingers.
I don't know if you've ever felt it--I'm sure many of you have. I describe it like this: low, heavy, tired, emotionally thin, easily hurt, clumsy, forgetful, unfocused, unmotivated, stuck, sluggish, sad. Some days I needed my husband to take over in the evenings (today is one of those day actually).
I felt prompted to share my struggle with friends on social media. I figured, why share sweet moments in my life and not the bitter ones? I was surprised by a near-immediate flood of responses from friends who felt the same way. That simple step of naming my suffering and then sharing it without shame brought great relief.
I also started reading a book called "Depression: Looking up from the stubborn darkness" by Edward T. Welch. I've dealt with feelings of depression some in the past. In fact, it's somewhat of a family trait handed down from great-grandma, who sadly spent time in a mental institute.
I've found Welch's book really insightful. He explains things much more thoroughly than I do, but I'll share a few truths from his book along with some I'm trying to hold onto during this season.
1. You are not alone. What a relief when someone else says, "Oh yes, me too." Welch writes:
"Don’t think that your case is unique. This popular lie questions God’s care: all sufferers are tempted to believe that their suffering is unique. This lie immediately renders all counsel irrelevant because no one understands and no advice applies. The result is that the aloneness you already experience is now an established fact, and you are given ever more permission to despair."2. Don't minimize or compare your suffering. As we began to pray better as a church this past year, our pastor encouraged us not to compare or minimize our form of suffering. If we compare ours to another's, we'll never dare to ask God or anyone else for help or prayer. Someone else's suffering is always worse. We forget that God cares like an attentive father and is present in suffering.
3. My choice is either to look inward or cry out to God. Welch (again) writes,
"Your decision is between calling out to the Lord or not. This is the choice that has confronted those in misery throughout history. Listen to the prophet Hosea, who wrote these words on behalf of the Lord: 'They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds' (Hosea 7:14). You can sit in silence or cry to the Lord. You can cry on your bed or cry to the Lord. These are the two choices."What will I do with my suffering? Try to figure it out? Try harder? Distract myself? Isolate myself? Or will I humble myself and cry out to my God, while letting those who care about me into my struggles?
Welch suggests praying and reading through the Psalms as a model of "crying out" while looking to God for hope.
3. Separate feelings from faith. How you feel on any given day is a complicated web of factors and influences--other people (and their sin), spiritual influences (good and evil), your body and its intricate workings, and your own sin.
Welch writes, "Feelings don’t define faith. Instead, faith is simply turning to the Lord."
I find that as I turn my eyes to the Lord and fix my eyes on Jesus, my feelings often do change and come in line with the truth, but not always, and not consistently.
Freeing myself from the pressure to change how I'm feelings is one way to let Jesus bear the burdens that I can't bear (see Matthew 11:28-30).
I'm also doing some little things to lift my spirits. I'm attempting to get back into exercise habits (Fitness Blender is my favorite, if anything exercise-related could be my favorite). I'm trying to get us all outside at least once a day for what little sun there is. I'm trying to do things I love (like drawing, playing music, and reading).
As I ask for God's help, (surprise!) He helps. I forget that He is like that. Helpful. Attentive. Good.
Let's rehearse his goodness, especially in whatever suffering we are wading in. If you don't know where to start, join me in praying through some Psalms. You may feel the writer's confidence and hope . . . or you may not. That's okay. Let God move you, heal you, and comfort you as He works through His Spirit.
Can I share one more beautiful thing that has come out of this? As my daughter struggled under the weight of her own anxiety, I was able to share my reading in Psalms with her. It was a simple moment, but I have found her reading her new Bible several times on her own since.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 [ESV]God never wastes your struggles. What a comfort you will be to someone one day when you say, "Oh yes, me too!"
Today's printable Bible verse coloring page is from Psalm 3:3. You can download your page HERE in English or HERE in Spanish or by clicking on the images below!*
PRAYING the Word
"O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me." [Psalm 3:1-5 ESV]
*I'm so happy for you to enjoy my coloring pages and printables for your personal (not commercial) use! Use for Bible studies, church groups or events, and Sunday school classes are all fine! If you're in doubt, I'm happy to answer any questions. All artwork and photos are copyright Marydean Draws. If you share this, you're awesome (!), and as a courtesy, please link back to this post and not the PDF file. Thank you!!
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