When God Feels Like an Enemy: An Update on the Past Six Months

In casual, everyday conversation, depression serves as a good synonym for sadness.  In this sense, it’s simply a mood state we all experience from time to time, typically after we’ve brushed up against one of life’s inevitable setbacks or disappointments.  For example, I’ve heard people say they were depressed after watching their favorite team lose a big game, or even after ripping a hole in a good pair of blue jeans.  Such “depression” doesn’t last for long, and it rarely affects our ability to function.

In a clinical context, however, the word has a radically different meaning.  It refers to a profoundly debilitating form of mental illness.  (The precise diagnostic label is major depressive disorder, but most clinicians simply call it depression for short.)  It’s a syndrome that deprives people of their energy, sleep, concentration, joy, confidence, memory, sex drive – their ability to love and work and play.  It can even rob them of their will to live.  Over time, depression damages the brain and wreaks havoc on the body.  It’s a treacherous illness – a shudder-inducing foe that no one in their right mind would ever take lightly, certainly not if they understood the disorder’s capacity to destroy life.

Stephen Ilardi, The Depression Cure

I’ve carried depression as part of my story for twenty years now, beginning with a major depressive episode, then settling into  predictable seasonal sadness.  I’ve skirted around a significant depression for almost two years, managing with oils and supplements and just believing that eventually life would settle a bit and my mind would find normal again.  I wondered when that would come, when it would happen, but found a place where I was content to just wait and keep on plodding along.  And then November came and I was pushed, emotionally, off of some great cliff into a darkness that still escapes description or explanation.  And I wrestled for weeks, months, to grasp hold of something, anything to make sense of it all.

Mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from normal experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain.  But it is not an immediately identifiable pain, like that of a broken limb. It may be more accurate to say that despair, owing to some evil trick played upon the sick brain by the inhabiting psyche, comes to resemble the diabolical discomfort of being imprisoned in a fiercely overheated room.  And because no breeze stirs this caldron, because there is no escape from the smothering confinement, it is entirely natural that the victim begins to think ceaselessly of oblivion.

William Styron, Darkness Visible

And that’s where I found myself as February wrapped up and March entered in.  Every time I thought I was making progress, gaining a foothold, getting on top of the wave that was this drowning depression, it was as if someone would come and physically shove me back under, to the bottom.  Until I could fight no more.

I felt like a pawn in someone else’s game.  I had prayed with no response.  I had asked God to show me what sin or error might have put me here.  Silence.  I asked others to pray for me.  Relief, then back under.  So finally I surrendered.  I was going to sit in that pit until God came back to get me. I had enough faith left to believe that He would.  Eventually.  When He was finished with whatever chapter of this story He was writing.  And so I would sit.  Because I couldn’t strive anymore.

It is not trying that is ever going to bring us home.  All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, “You must do this.  I can’t.”

C.S. Lewis

I was angry with God.  So angry.  I was empty and defeated.  I had no kind words to say to Him or about Him.  I felt completely abandoned.  I felt like He had turned His back on me.  I truly didn’t know if I could continue to trust a God who played people like chess pieces, who allowed broken hearts and broken lives.  Who allowed devastation around the world and in my own home.  It was all too much to bear.

Betrayed. My stomach turns at the word. I remember vividly when someone I loved dearly and deeply turned into an enemy. There was a proverbial knife in my back and I was hurt, angry, and aching. I wonder how many of you have walked through betrayal. It is awful. You’re powerless to stop the pain and you keep wishing in vain that it could somehow be a different story.

Jesus wished it could be a different story, too. Just before this scene in Mark where He is betrayed by Judas and arrested, He was in a garden on his knees in deep distress, begging His Father to take the cup (Mark 14:35). Jesus knew what was coming and that it would feel unbearable. He’d asked His three dearest friends on earth to pray for Him, too—but three times, He comes to find them asleep. In His deepest hour of need, dreading what lies before Him, His friends can’t even keep their eyes open.

Son of Man, Son of God, Living Word—betrayed for our sake. He drinks the cup of death that we deserve, so that our cups might overflow.

He was arrested so we could be set free. 

He was deserted so we could know we’re never alone.

He was betrayed so we could be held in the arms of Love.

Ellie Holcomb, She Reads Truth

And while I sat in that pit, Jesus was writing a different story, a deeper story.  He was writing the only thing He knows to write – redemption.  While I wrestled and strived with God, Jesus began a miracle work of healing and restoration.  Because He knows what it is to have God turn His back on you.  As He prayed in the Garden and all His friends slept, and then ran away.  As He hung on that cross and God turned His own broken heart away for the sin Christ bore…..Jesus knew what it was to be completely alone in the darkest place imaginable.

Restoration is not complete.  While I can see the daylight now and I sit on warmer ground, I still sit. And I can see that pit not too far behind me.  I spend every minute of every day literally “taking every thought captive”, practicing the things I’m learning to prevent the downward spiral that seems to be second nature right now.  I know one hard shove is all it will take to land back at the bottom.  And it terrifies me.  So I guard my heart and my thoughts with all vigilance.

Sometimes we don’t understand the things that happen to us.  Sometimes the hard things in our life are part of a story God is writing in someone else’s life.  But sometimes He gives us the opportunity to choose the direction the story will go.  I thought this winter would cost me everything – my mind, my marriage, my family, my faith.  I had nothing to hold on to. God allowed that.  And that’s still hard to rest in.  But God has allowed other dark seasons in my life, seasons that I also thought would cost me everything – right down to my life.  But He wasn’t finished writing.  And He isn’t still.  As a writer, I understand that stories often take unexpected and painful turns, and if our characters were humans with free will, they would no doubt rail against the author in anger and confusion.  And while human authors write countless different stories with good and bad endings, my God only writes one kind of ending in the lives of His children – restoration and redemption.  Truth, beauty, and hope.  He will restore what the locust has eaten. He will redeem.  He will make all things new.

I’ve always been fairly transparent about my battle with depression because it’s part of my story.  To hide it would be to hide what God is doing in my life.  And to hide it would give it more power.  Speaking it makes it less terrifying and gives freedom and courage to others who need to tell their story too.

God is big and mysterious and His ways are higher, and often harder, than our ways.  And sometimes that’s scary and confusing and hard to swallow.  But He is good.  And He is true.  And when I had lost almost all faith, that is what I clung to.  I knew He had a better plan, no matter what this plan cost me, this was not all He had for my life.  And no matter where you are today, God’s not finished.  And, yes, that sounds so cliche and I’m so weary of Christian cliches and you are too, but some are true.  And when you are in that pit, truth, real truth, God’s truth, is what must be held to, even when it seems dead and untrue and you feel completely forsaken.  You are not alone.  Somewhere, somehow, Jesus is writing redemption.  Just sit down and wait.  He will come for you.

For His Glory ~

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How I Cope with the Clouds

So a couple of weeks ago I posted about my on-going battle with depression.  Over the years I’ve tried a variety of methods for treating this shadowy illness.  I’ve tried a variety of prescription anti-depressants.  I’ve tried light therapy (in the form of tanning beds).  I’ve used St. John’s Wort as recommended by my physician.  And I’ve tried just waiting for winter to pass (as that is when I struggle most).

All of these methods have been successful to varying degrees and with varying long-term effects.  Prescription meds work, I won’t argue with that.  But they come with a multitude of side effects and a variety of long-term consequences that are just beginning to be understood.  I am thankful for modern medicine and pharmaceuticals and believe God has given us this knowledge to be used for our benefit and His glory.  I have no issues with someone who uses prescription anti-depressants or with using them myself if necessary.  However, I believe God has given us in the created world what we need to treat and care for our bodies in times of sickness or health and we all know we are beginning to see how the overuse of man-created compounds and chemicals is causing a plethora of unintended consequences (cancers, antibiotic resistant bacteria, etc).  Therefore, as much as possible, I would prefer to find more natural ways to treat myself and my family.

Enter my current treatment plan, and a little backstory…..

In July, as I think I mentioned, I was desperate, drowning, and hanging on by merely a thread of hope.  I cried out to the Lord for some kind of relief because I knew I couldn’t go into the new school year, much less the winter, already so far behind emotionally.  And through completely “random” circumstances (a phone call from my husband to a friend about something completely unrelated), I was told about essential oils.  I’ll be honest, on a normal day I would have politely written the idea off as “not for me”.  But this came at the end of a day of dedicated prayer for help, so I listened and started reading and asking questions.  I ordered two oils and expected absolutely nothing.  I kept praying and hoping and committed to trying the oils (and St. John’s Wort – more on that momentarily) for  the month of August.  It was decided that if I was not feeling noticeably better by the end of the month, I would go back on prescription meds for the first time in 13 years.

Sidenote – I added in the SJW because, as I said, I was desperate for relief.  I have used SJW many times for seasonal depression and have found it helpful, enough to get me through the winter months, but not life changing.  I thought, if nothing else, it might provide a boost to my fragile mental state.  🙂

And so I faithfully used my oils and my SJW for a couple of weeks and really didn’t think much of it.  We had a birthday in the family and there was no mama-meltdown (a miracle in itself).  Then we had a birthday party complete with sleepover friends and I actually had fun.  We started school and I felt peaceful instead of overwhelmed.  Our schedule picked up pace and I did not panic.  And that’s when I realized it, I felt better.  I felt more free, whole, and human than I had felt in months, maybe longer.  It took about two weeks, but the change was amazing.  I don’t know if it was “just” the oils or “just” the SJW or the combination of the two , but I’m not eliminating one right now to find out.  I have found something that is working incredibly well, and I’m sticking with it.  I may try to taper off of the SJW in the spring, but for the next several months, I am staying the course, Lord willing.

So here’s my treatment plan:

Lots and lots of this…..

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Combined with daily doses of these…..

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I take the SJW according to the directions on the bottle (in this case, 1 capsule, 3 times daily).  I put a drop or two of the citrus oil in every glass of water I drink.  And I put a few drops of Valor in the palm of my hands, rub together, and inhale deeply three or four times a day (more if needed).

I was impressed enough with the oils that I signed up with Young Living to be a “distributor”.  Now let me say this – I am not a fan of MLM.  I don’t like home parties and tend to find MLM products over-priced and not significantly better than their locally found competitors. That said, there is a wide variance in qualities of essential oils, these are shown to be good, quality oils,  and, as I said earlier, I have something that is working.  I’m not interested in rocking the boat.  If I can sign up and get it at a discount – woot!  If God chooses to do something else with this and grow something out of it, then that is His prerogative.

Since signing up and ordering my oils, I have been trying all the ones that came in my kit and have had great success with many of them.  One daughter has used Purification for blemishes.  I diffuse Peace and Calming at breakfast, lunch, and dinner to help keep our gaggle of girls under control as we transition to different parts of the day.  We have used Lavender for a multitude of things – rubbing on feet and pillows at night, soothing burns or scrapes on skin, helping our very distractible child to focus during school (night and day difference when we use it and when we don’t), and even alleviating one of the most severe allergy episodes I’ve had in years.

So, to say I’m a fan is probably an understatement.  I’m still very overwhelmed by the abundance of information and possibilities with these oils, as well as the sheer number of them, but I am learning as I go and am excited to learn more.

For His Glory ~

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****If you are interested in placing an order with Young Living (www.youngliving.com), my distributor number is: 1484727. As I said in my post, I am not actively trying to grow any sort of a business; I’m just completely amazed at how beneficial these oils are and I love that the only “side effects” are good ones, so I am happy to share that with anyone who wants to know more.  It’s always all for God’s glory.

When Hope Gives Wings

For nearly twenty years the clouds have followed me.  For nearly two decades I have wrestled with doubt, fear, overwhelming sadness, and despair.  For nearly twenty years, I have struggled with depression.  Like the clouds, it comes and it goes and often it is seasonal.  But when it hits, it is heavy.  And lonely.  And dark.

But, God, He is the God of light and life and promise and through every season He has carried me and shown me grace and mercy and tenderness.  But most of all it has been His hope that has carried me through the dark seasons.  And it’s the hope found in His word that gives the most comfort…

  • Though he slay me, I will hope in him.  (Job 13:15)
  • Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 33:18)
  • And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)
  • Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.  (Psalm 42:5)
  • For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5)
  • For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. (Jeremiah 29:11-14a)
  • But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him. (Lamentations 3:21-24)
  • Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope.  I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles. (Zechariah 9:12)
  • In hope he believed against hope… (Romans 4:18a)
  • Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
  • Let your hope make you glad.  Never stop praying.  Be joyful always. (Romans 12:12 paraphrase)
  • So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20)

And that’s just a few of them.  And when a word comes to define what God is doing in your life, when a word from His word is what you cling to and your forgetful heart needs it ever present before your eyes a constant reminder, you write it all over the house but it’s still not enough, and sometimes you just want to write it on your skin where you can never stop seeing it.  So finally one day, you do….

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Hope – that anchor for the soul that gives wings to the heart.

And the battle isn’t over, but we will continue to fight, because God gives hope.

For His Glory ~

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Clouds

Day after day, she lives in shadows.  Clouds hang overhead with glimpses of sunshine to break the monotony.  And there is no reason for the lingering dark, but it hangs on just the same.  She says nothing about the darkness because there’s no explaining the clouds when all the world sees is a beautiful springtime.  And where is God who seems to stay so distant, so far off?  He reigns regardless of the rain.  And it is He who makes the sun to shine that also sends the clouds, and these dark, quiet seasons cause growth yet unseen.  And the hope of relief comes through a friend reaching out and just that glimmer of hope causes the sun to shine a bit brighter through the shadows and she follows hard after God, trusting Him for grace for each moment, mercy for each day, and hope that is an anchor.




2648.  choosing joy, peace

2649.  knowing feeling follows action

2650.  listening for God’s gentle whisper

2651.  meeting a long time Facebook friend in real life

2652.  beautiful summer night, Mexican food, a patio, and a friend

2653.  house starting to feel like home

2654.  gift of seeking God in the dark

2655.  closeness

2656.  vehicle running again

2657.  a lighter heart

2658.  another room organized and unpacked

2659.  fourteen years of marriage

2660.  long, relaxing weekends

2661.  giant elephant ears and red hibiscus

2662.  Monday and a new week

May His light fill all your dark places and may His hope give an anchor to your wandering heart.

For His Glory ~

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