In February, I started this blog series on Seeking God, in which I share my experience with waiting and focusing on God in the midst of depression. You can read part one here.
I completed the second part of the series that same week but it didn’t feel quite finished. I have had a lot of time to consider the impact my fast to seek the Lord had, on me. And I’ve come to the following revelation:
I love the Lord and I am passionate about my faith. It is an anchor, for me, in the tumultuous seas of life. The scariest thing about the particular season of depression I was in, was the lack of spiritual passion, level of indifference and perhaps even anger at God, that I was experiencing. God wasn’t intervening in my life in the way I wanted. But rather than share these feelings with Him, I did what my experiences in life had taught me: I stuffed my anger. Ignored it and didn’t allow the feelings to surface. My pain progressed from sadness, to anger and then despair.
Of course, this is somewhat oversimplified — my particular experience with depression is a little more nuanced. I’ve struggled with depression for as long as I can remember, I believe, as a result of childhood abuse and varying forms of trauma following the initial event.
Beyond the experiential reasons, I believe I also have a biological/hormonal predisposition toward deteriorations in mood. And I believe that this particular episode of depression was compounded by events and circumstances in my life. While I felt led to fast, fasting itself was not intended to be a miracle cure but about removing distractions and comforts as a ‘returning home’ to God and my faith.
I received the following verse on the first day of my fast:
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).
This verse came with a prayer, for me, to be at peace with whatever was or wasn’t revealed. A great reminder that the purpose of this journey was not to receive an insight or revelation or even a miracle. The purpose was to find my way home.
My Life Application Study Bible (NIV) provided the following commentary on this verse:
God is ready to answer our prayers but we must ask for His assistance. Surely God could take care of our needs without our asking. But when we ask, we are acknowledging that He alone is God and that we cannot accomplish in our own strength all that is his domain to do. When we ask, we must humble ourselves, lay aside our willfulness and worry, and determine to obey Him.
Depression has proven to be a chronic thorn in my side. And I pray, as Paul did, that I will be delivered from it. But if not, “His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness.” Strangely, I didn’t miss food. I didn’t even desire food. And that is testament to God’s power, alone. In fact, I was more affected by my fast from media than I was from food.
The women that God “called” to pray for me during this week manifested a different aspect of my Lord and each one was used in a very unique way to meet my deepest need through scripture, prayer and music.
On the first morning of my fast I received the following verse and insight:
In Him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:4-5).
A deception from the enemy is the message, or illusion rather, of complete and utter darkness. Yes, darkness is present in the world around me and even within me. I took my eyes off the Cross and focused on the darkness. I stopped seeing the light — or did I ever truly comprehend that ‘the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it?’ Yes, there is darkness but it has not overcome the light. It cannot. In Him is life — and that life is the light of men.
As a believer, I carry that light within me. And that light is all around me. It’s in the strength and support of my husband’s arms. The laughter and innocence in my children’s voices. The loyal companionship of my dog. The birds chirping outside my window. And the faith and fellowship of my praying sisters in Christ.
The light exposes for the purpose of repentance and the darkness uses that exposure to judge and condemn. Hope is seeing the darkness, experiencing it and even embracing it — knowing and believing that it cannot extinguish the light.
On the second day of my fast, I woke to the awareness that my husband would be going out of town that evening. As I lay in bed, I started to think to myself, “this means the emptiness will be palpable. I will not have his presence to draw strength from.”
I immediately recognized the flaw in my thinking. As I reflected on this train of thought I considered a recent event that had exacerbated my feelings of depression. My children and I spent Christmas in my home country, of Malawi. It had been 4 years since we were last there. While at my parents’ house, my depression appeared to have lifted. I was surrounded by family and friends ALL the time. Their presence filled the empty spaces in my heart. I was never physically alone and I drew strength from the energy of the people around me.
Coming back to the States was hard. I sensed myself begin to withdraw emotionally on the long flight home. The life that I was returning to is much faster paced and so full of busyness all around me. I feel alone most of the time. While on the flight, I mourned the loss of family, friends and companionship while systematically building up my defenses and bracing myself for the inevitable loneliness.
With this realization I saw the flaw in my thinking. My husband, my family and my friends were never designed to be the source of my strength. While my husband is the love of my life, it is too great a burden to weigh him down with. And in addition to this it is idolatrous, to put him in that position. Only God can be that for me, in my life.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6 ESV).
My husband, whom I love fiercely, does not complete me, he compliments me. Only Christ can and will complete me.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 ESV).
Only God is capable of of providing the strength I keep seeking from those around me.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19 ESV)
Only He can meet, fulfill and sustain my needs.
… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31 ESV).
This isn’t to undermine the value of earthly relationships but rather to put these relationships in their proper context. We are relational beings created for connection to other people but we were never meant to meet each other’s needs in the manner that I was seeking. We are not meant to be the source of each other’s joy, happiness or strength. And I believe that an intimate relationship with God is foundational for healthy relationships with others.
What I seek should not be another person or thing. My idolatrous heart, when left unguarded seeks to dethrone the Lord and place a created being or object on the throne of my heart. I miss my husband when he is traveling. I miss his companionship and support.
Having the proper perspective protects us from becoming overly affected when a person fails to meet our expectations or from attaching too much significance to a person when they do. We can view everything in its appropriate context and glorify God for the gifts we receive.
For all of the posts in this series, follow the links below: