My one word to focus on for 2017 is —
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines it this way —
enjoy (v.) 1. take delight or pleasure in 2. possess and benefit from
I’m learning that the deepest enjoyment begins with the deepest sorrow. I’ve written quite a bit about my depression on the blog as though it were something that hit me all of a sudden in 2013.
In a way, it was — because it was soul-crushing intense, suddenly. But the more I dig below the surface, the more God helps me see that I’ve always been plagued by melancholy — an overall sadness of spirit.
I suppose I was born this way to some degree, but the heavy burdens of my childhood compounded my grief. I believe it’s most difficult to overcome for the simple fact that many Christians deny the acknowledgement of wounds, sadness of spirit, deep grief and sorrow as though they diminish the goodness of God. Thank God, not all Christians dismiss our humanity — not even the greats…
As to mental maladies, is any man altogether sane? Are we not all a little off the balance? Some minds appear to have a gloomy tinge essential to their very individuality; of them it may be said, “Melancholy marked them for her own;” fine minds withal, and ruled by noblest principles, but yet most prone to forget the silver lining, and to remember only the cloud…
…These infirmities may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness; they may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. Some plants owe their medicinal qualities to the marsh in which they grow; others to the shades in which alone they flourish.
A Deep Need to Grieve
A secure home filled with love, grace and truth is a great buffer to the evils of the world, but when home is frightening and dark; when you grow up deprived of your voice, feelings, value and safety — an awfully ill-formed soul takes shape.
As I look back at myself as a little girl, I’m allowed to grieve for her and feel compassion for her for the first time in my life. I was never afforded that opportunity. I had to play a different role: strong protector of reputations. Oh the hell that I would have to absorb to keep the powers-that-be pleased with me. It’s no wonder I was plagued with sadness. I wasn’t designed to carry the burdens placed on me.
Neither were you, my friend.
Since talking about it wasn’t an option, I learned many ways to compensate for my deficiencies. The result was a burial of all weaknesses; a facade of strength — tough layer upon tougher layer, until the only trace of my wounds was an anger that I could never quite contain. Even when the grace of God entered my life and saved my soul at 24, causing me to feel a security I had never known — it did not entirely remove this sin I hated most of all. It’s the one thing I’ve pleaded for forgiveness the most for to both God and others. It’s the one thing that I’ve cried in anguish for God to remove because I couldn’t bear to wound the people I love as I had been so deeply wounded.
Let There Be Sorrow
God would answer my cries in His time, but I had no idea of the loss I would suffer for this deeper healing to begin. The depression and anxiety that I thought had hit me suddenly were actually the effects of deep wounds brought to the surface to be dealt with and cleansed once and for all.
In God’s economy, loss is gain — but it’s not always immediate. The darkest depression is slowly shaping into joy — not a feeling, but a more settled state of mind, where I’m living more free than I ever have before. My view of God, the ill-formed parts, are being reshaped into the indescribably good God that He really is. He doesn’t add burdens — He lifts them. The caring hearts that let you mourn your losses are fashioned by Him.
Sorrow Turns Into Compassion and Healing Wisdom
The Christian life is not about growing less needy. The sadness that plays in the background of my life allows me to do for others what I needed done for me. If removing my sadness would remove my compassion, I’d rather walk with a limp. That doesn’t mean we haven’t experience healing. It means we’ve experienced a deeper, better healing. If experiencing pain and desperately needing to speak of it helps me give others permission to do the same — so be it. Putting on layers of strength over our weaknesses only gives us feelings of superiority and pushes us further from intimate relationship.
If anyone thinks that speaking of weakness, suffering and depression diminishes the glory of God, the prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, says the opposite. His honest, encouraging words have brought me nearer to God than the most knowledgeable men ever could. He wholly leaned on Jesus Christ as a needy MAN — letting God be God and giving that grace to others as well.
Sorrow Turns Into Joy
Spurgeon’s prescription for the downcast is not only to read more of their Bible or sit longer in prayer, but to get out and pursue the remedies that God has graciously provided in our natural environment.
To sit long in one posture, poring over a book, or driving a quill, is in itself a taxing of nature; but add to this a badly-ventilated chamber, a body which has long been without muscular exercise, and a heart burdened with many cares, and we have all the elements for preparing a seething cauldron of despair, especially in the dim months of fog —
Let a man be naturally as blithe as a bird, he will hardly be able to bear up year after year against such a suicidal process; he will make his study a prison and his books the warders of a gaol, while nature lies outside his window calling him to health and beckoning him to joy. He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy. A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.
The ferns and the rabbits, the streams and the trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops — these are the best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining, the best refreshments for the weary. For lack of opportunity, or inclination, these great remedies are neglected, and the student becomes a self-immolated victim.
I don’t imagine 2017 to be a year without sorrow and tears, but I’ll be reminded that sorrow and joy are not incompatible. It’s being in the valley, not on the mountaintop that leads me to pursue the joys of God most — surely, the everlasting promises from His Word, but also His abundant provision all around me: the strong & gentle arms of my husband; the adventurous spirit of our boys; the laughter of friendship; the smiles of neighbors; fresh mountain air; beautiful views; uplifting music; fragrant flowers; the warmth of the sun; the fun that is ART ; ) — all lifelines that tell us that God cares for us in this fallen world. This is worship — not of the things in and of themselves, but things in the Lord.
I resolve to deeply enjoy all I can in Him, understanding that it’s made most possible through weakness and sorrow. I pray that you are free to talk about and grieve your own losses, whatever they may be — and in doing so, pursue and enjoy abundant life in the Lord. Our sorrows don’t diminish God’s goodness, they increase it!
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” -Psalm 37:4
Happy New Year, friends = )
In life, faith & art ~ Jamie
Charles Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, Vol. 1 (Quotes from Lecture 11: The Minister’s Fainting Fits)