A Hard Season
I am just now coming out of a period of darkness. A darkness incomparable to anything I’ve ever known. Crippling depression. Debilitating fatigue. White hot anxiety that seared my forearms like fire. Strange sensitivity to noise, light and texture. I didn’t understand what was happening.
I felt like a hunted animal hiding from a great predator, weak and exposed, trembling and full of fear. On most days, I was unable to do basic things like go to the grocery store, drive a car, or spend time with my children without going into a complete panic. My husband significantly cut back his time at work in order to take care of me and our children. It was frustrating, embarrassing, and downright humbling.
I still don’t fully get what ‘it’ was or why it lasted so long (almost 3 years). But I know that I am no longer in that dark place. I smile and joke and laugh again. I’m no longer sleeping 12 to 14 hours at a time. I don’t feel like I’m moving in slow motion or slogging through wet concrete anymore. Sometimes, I completely forget what I’ve been through now that life is back to ‘normal.’
But I don’t want to forget. Because precious lessons were learned.
Suffering Brings Perspective
Suffering, of any sort, can bring immense perspective. When we are going through a difficult time, the frailty and fleeting nature of life becomes starkly evident. Things we once took for granted like family, friends and health, are now viewed as precious privileges rather than the expected norm.
Have you ever experienced a near accident when driving? In that split second, you realize you could’ve been seriously injured or killed. That kind of experience shocks me into reality. The things I was worrying about just a few minutes before the near-accident seem trivial afterwards.
Think about the last time you got really sick. I mean puking over the toilet, retching out your insides sick. Talk about humbling. You feel completely weak and at the mercy of the illness that is raging through your body. You don’t know how long it’s going to last. You wonder if you will ever get better. You want to do whatever you can to fight the sickness. You want to be well again. And in the meantime, you just try to get by. One day at a time.
That’s where I was. For three years.
If you are in that place, my friend, or know someone who is there, I want to say this: HANG ON. Just keep hanging on. In my case, I hung on to God, hiding beneath His wings during what felt like the most ferocious storm of my life.
During my darkest moments (usually on the floor in my bedroom closet), I experienced the presence of God in a way that I’ve never known before. It felt like a hurricane was raging all around me, lashing at my body with its harsh winds of fear and hopelessness, but I hung on for dear life to a wooden post (at least that’s what I pictured in my head). It was a threshold, a centerpiece, that held fast in the eye of the storm. It was there that nothing could touch me. Oh, I could hear and feel the winds, alright. But nothing could reach me. I believe that was the Lord. He was that post, the Rock I clung to in the midst of the storm. And notice: He didn’t stop the storm for me. It still raged around me and even whipped at me at times. I was terrified. But I knew He was there, right there with me, in the center of it, and His very presence brought a peace that washed over me again and again, satiating my thirsty soul.
Friends, I don’t know what you are going through, but from someone who’s walked through a valley of darkness and come out on the other side, I want to say this:
Stop trying to fight the storm, avoid it, or run from it.
Press into Jesus.
Let Him carry you through it.
Suffering can send us into a panic. When we feel like we have no control, we often get irritable, angry, fearful and want to blame someone or something. We start grasping wildly at anything that offers some semblance of control and order.
But I have discovered a hidden gem in the midst of suffering. Although the Lord did not take away my difficult circumstances, He met me where I was and comforted me. I felt His tangible presence in a way I have never felt before. On many occasions. He ministered to my wounds, to my deepest fears, insecurities and longings, and He whispered sweet assurances of hope to my soul:
I am in this with you. This storm will pass. Know that I am working all things together for your good, even this. Trust me. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Although you are walking through the valley of the shadow of the death right now, you don’t have to be afraid. I am the Good Shepherd and you are one of my precious sheep. My rod and my staff will comfort and protect you.
Just in sensing His presence and hearing His voice speak to my heart, I felt an overwhelming peace. My depression and anxiety were still there. They didn’t suddenly go away. But deep down, I knew things would be okay. I knew this season would not last forever. I knew I was just supposed to hang on and let Him carry me. And He did. He carried me right through that valley of darkness and up to the other side, a beautiful field of flowers. I expect there will be more valleys to come…but each time I walk through one, my prayer is that I will cling to Him tighter, without wavering, trusting that He is greater than any storm.
Friends, I pray no matter what you are going through right now, no matter how alone or hopeless you may feel your situation is, He cares about you. He loves you. He delights in singing over you. He made you, creating you in your mother’s womb. You are the apple of his eye. He has good plans for your life. He is working all things together for good.
But in order to know Him and experience His presence, you must trust Him. Let Him carry your burdens. Let Him lead you through the storms of life, the good and the bad. Stop trying to do it on your own, in your own strength, thinking you know better. You don’t. None of us do. Surrender to Him and His will for you. Whether you are on the high mountain path enjoying the scenic view or down in the valley groping your way through the darkness, He is there, right there with you. He will lead you, if you will let Him. Let Him be your Rock, your Refuge and your Guide. There is no other like Him.