Second verse, same as the first! Maybe…

I have a confession to make. That’s always a show-stopper, isn’t it? Some of you have kindly mentioned to me that you haven’t seen a post from me in a long time and you wondered if you had missed one. The answer is “no.” It’s been about 7 months since my last post – this is where the confession comes in. I have been struggling these past months with depression – again. I’ve thought about writing about this for quite some time, but I just never seemed to be able to get it together and actually do it. Well… you know how it is.

Before I go any further, I feel I should let everyone know that this is a very mild case of depression – nowhere near as deep or black as what I have overcome in the past. Still. Having to accept that you’re depressed (again) after you have already worked so hard to overcome it is, well, depressing. And then, of course, there is the self-recrimination, the frustration, the anger at myself for allowing myself to be here (again). And the vicious cycle begins. I am, however, taking my own advice from past posts on this blog and I am taking steps to overcome it (again). Actually, I already am on the way to climbing out, which is why I’ve finally sat down to write about it.

This is kind of a good news, bad news situation. As I usually prefer, I started with the bad news. The good news is that the reasons for depression this time around are different from past times. Mostly. I consider that personal growth, which is encouraging. This time it really isn’t about not forgiving people from past hurts, but I have still fallen prey to really bad messages from my past that I have chosen to listen to and believe. It’s taken several months, but I believe I have narrowed down my issues to feelings of insignificance. I find myself still wondering what I want to do when I grow up. I feel that there is so much more I have to offer, but I don’t know what that realistically looks like. In truth, I haven’t transitioned into the “empty nest” all that well. In my own defense, however, I think I’ve done a lot better than I thought I would back when my boys were in high school and I had the void they would leave looming ahead of me. Unfortunately, I think “significance” for me requires a great deal of focused activity. It seems that I’m only fulfilled when I am “doing” and I really struggle with just “being.” Metaphorically, I am invigorated by swimming with strong currents and white water; it’s treading water in deep, quiet pools that drains me. I have long known this about myself, which is why I have resisted just jumping into a lot of possible activities in the last few years – I don’t want to be so busy and worn down by doing “good” stuff that I miss whatever God has planned for me. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still doing quite a bit of stuff, just not as much as I could.

WARNING: EXTREME CHRISTIAN CONTENT TO FOLLOW. I just wanted to warn my non-Jesus readers so you can bail out here if you choose. I absolutely believe in spiritual warfare. I believe the Enemy tends to leave us alone when we’re not doing much for the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we struggle because of sin in our lives (including, but not limited to, forgiving other people and ourselves) or the fallout of sin from other people. But I have seen over and over again how the Enemy dredges up our past and past negative messages to keep us from something God has in store for us. Satan can’t claim us, but he can certainly derail us.

All of this is to say, if you are dealing with depression or sometimes have recurring depression, I’m there in the trenches with you. The crucial things are: admit the depression – you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge; be honest with yourself and examine the reasons for the depression; choose to take steps to get out of it (see previous posts on this blog, if you need some suggestions); forgive yourself, get over yourself, and determine that you will not allow depression to defeat you. It really is all a matter of determination and a choice. No magic incantations, no fairy dust. You have to choose, and keep choosing. It’s not easy, and it’s not a quick fix, but it can be done. Again.

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‘Tis the season…

I know the Christmas season is frequently a favorite time of year for many people, but if you struggle with depression or, at least, the tendency for depression, it can be a very difficult time of year. This isn’t earth-shattering news – it’s been documented for a long time that suicides increase over Christmas and the New Year. I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about that, and, more importantly, how to try to avoid that spiraling depression that frequently accompanies what should be a happy and joyous time. As usual, I will use myself as an example.

As I’ve posted before, overcoming depression requires a lot of honesty with yourself and understanding your own tendencies and triggers that cause you to become depressed or more depressed (See “Trigger is more than a horse). I love holidays and celebrations of all kinds, but because of my personality I tend to have unrealistic expectations of such things. And when special days and celebrations inevitably fail to live up to my unrealistic expectations, I feel disappointed and sad. The first trick for me is to remind myself, as the holidays are approaching, that I need to manage my expectations and think through the kinds of things that, in the past, have caused me to feel down. Awareness that you are approaching a potential trigger is key. In another previous post, I talked about the similarity in canoeing and depression: if you’re in a canoe and approaching rapids, you need to paddle faster so that the canoe is moving faster than the water so that you can maneuver the boat better. If you allow the water to control the boat, it’s much harder to keep from crashing into rocks or tumping over (tumping is an Arkansas word for a boat tipping over in water – just thought I’d throw that in for general edification). Similarly, if you allow life circumstances and personal perceptions to control you without any assessment or preparation on your part, you are much more likely to succumb to depression without even realizing it’s happening until you’re already in a bad place emotionally.

Now to be more specific. I just participated in a Christmas play at my church. I love acting, and there is a natural adrenaline surge in performing on stage. Unfortunately, at the end of an adrenaline spike there is usually an abrupt drop. I was also prepared for this, but knowing that it’s going to happen doesn’t keep it from happening – it just helps to keep it from overwhelming me because I was “prepared” for it. Another issue that I am dealing with is that as much as I love the sights, sounds, and smells of the holidays, I am at my core a social creature and only fully enjoy such things in the company of others. When my boys were younger, we used to set aside a day that we got together with a couple of other families to bake and decorate cookies, then we would go caroling to friends’ houses and give them the plates of the goodies we had made. We would also pile in the car one night and drive around looking at Christmas lights, go down to the capitol or other light shows, etc. They would also help (a little) with decorating the Christmas tree, lighting the advent wreath, doing an advent calendar, and a number of other “required” Christmas fun. Some traditions I think they enjoyed more than others, but they made me happy – which, of course, is the most important thing, right? My sons are grown now, so any decorating or activities I do, I do by myself, and I really don’t enjoy it. If I don’t decorate, however, I feel down, too, so it’s kind of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. I have to realistically think through what and how much I really want to do, because I have to take all of it down after Christmas, too – and that’s always depressing for me, no matter how well the season goes!

So what to do? The point of all this is that you need to be very intentional when approaching the holidays, if you are prone to depression at this time. For me, I love giving gifts and I love baking for the holidays. This can also be a problem since my family, inexplicably, does not particularly like baked goods. What I am choosing to do, however, is to bake things for friends, church staff, neighbors, etc. Even though my family are not “gift” people (I’ll explain that more in another post about “love languages” later) or foodies, these are things that I can do to make myself feel like I am celebrating the holidays and keep me from feeling sorry for myself. I also chose several people from an Angel Tree to buy gifts for them and their children, because I really love giving gifts (especially toys), and mostly what my sons want now is money – no fun to give at all, in my opinion. Also, for me, Christmas is a deeply spiritual time, so I try to focus more on that aspect rather than the bright trappings we have come to associate with it.

Giving gifts or baking may not do it for you. The important thing is that you figure out, ahead of time, what tends to make you sad and what types of activities are more likely to help you not focus on yourself during this season. Maybe it’s giving in some way to those less fortunate, or volunteering at a food bank or soup kitchen. Maybe it’s helping with parties at a nursing home or children’s hospital or some other agency or institution. If you need to be with friends but don’t have any parties scheduled, have a party at your house or at least arrange to meet people for dinner or drinks somewhere, rather than waiting for other people to do it. If the holidays are particularly painful for you because of a deep loss or some other trauma, maybe you need to leave town and travel to friends or family, or even take a vacation – if you have the resources to do so. Whatever it is, do something – anything – rather than just allowing yourself to spiral downwards. Even though Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and joy, sometimes (ironically) you have to fight hard to find it. My prayer for everyone reading this is that you will find, or rediscover, the Prince of Peace.

So what is the point?

I’m sure by now most people have already heard about the suicide of Robin Williams. If you’ve ever struggled with clinical depression, or love someone who has, this has to give you pause for thought. Like most people, I’ve been thinking about my “memories” of him – I put that in quotation marks because when a beloved celebrity dies, we all feel like we knew them, but in reality we only knew their persona or who they allowed us to see. I was in college when “Mork and Mindy” was on television. This was back in the days when most people did not have a TV in their room, so there was just one large TV downstairs in the dorm lounge area. The only time virtually every girl in the dorm was in the TV room was when “Mork and Mindy” was on. That’s the only show that everybody watched. I remember, even at the time, being somewhat amazed by that. One thing I’ve noticed in the years since, however, was when he was interviewed, he frequently had what I considered a desperate or trapped look in his eyes. Not when he was acting, but sometimes when he was just being himself. I’ve seen that look occasionally in other comedians’ eyes. I recognize that look.

Over the years, people have told me I should have been a comedienne. I actually considered it in my younger days. I’ve known for a long time that many comedians struggle with some form of depression. That makes perfect sense to me, because comedy is frequently a coping mechanism. Not all humor is, of course, but very often people with an ironic or sarcastic sense of humor are that way because they see things the way they should be and the way things really are, and somewhere between those two places is where comedy lies. Comedy is funny because people can identify with it on some level. But I think it’s the difference between what is and what should be that causes some people to be depressed. Not in everybody, of course, because causes of depression are extremely complex and varied. For what it’s worth, I still have a keen sense of humor, but I’m no longer depressed. I can tell when I’m getting in a negative frame of mind, however, by the tone of my humor – it’s kind of a red flag for me that I need to address an issue or mindset. And, of course, Robin Williams also struggled with alcohol and drug addiction – more coping mechanisms. But addictions didn’t kill him. They certainly made things worse, but they weren’t the immediate cause of his death.

So what is the thing that we can take away from such a tragedy? I don’t know what ghosts or demons Robin Williams dealt with, or if he was in counseling and taking medication for depression or not. The news reports that he recently had a relapse with at least his alcohol addiction. I think one of the important things for anyone dealing with depression is that frequently we feel that if our life was better or if we had a particular thing, we wouldn’t be depressed. That’s really just an excuse. Robin Williams was famous, wealthy, married and had children. He wasn’t a washed up “has been” either – he has been popular and working from the 1970’s up until the present. It’s hard to imagine anyone more “successful” than he was. But, clearly, all of that wasn’t enough. If you are depressed but failing to adequately treat it because you have convinced yourself that if your life was just “better” you wouldn’t be depressed, you are deceiving yourself. A better or more successful life does not get rid of whatever the underlying issues are in your life.

Depression is a life-threatening condition. I don’t mean to unduly scare anyone, but I’m not sure most people truly realize how serious it can be. If you had a serious heart condition or cancer, you would probably be treating it fairly aggressively. I am not an advocate of medicating anything without good cause, but if you are suffering from depression and refusing medication for personal or religious reasons, you are playing with fire. On the other hand, I really abhor people being prescribed antidepressants without counseling. Both are necessary. If you are taking medication but not going to counseling for depression, it is highly unlikely (in my opinion) that you will ever fully recover. Likewise, if you’re going to counseling but still struggling with depression, it may be time to look into medication. Regardless of how it started, clinical depression changes your body and brain chemistry. The right medication can help address getting your chemistry back to normal so you can deal with the issues that caused the depression, but counseling is necessary to help you deal with the issues. For me, it was a combination of medication, counseling and spiritual warfare before I was finally free. If you are a follower of Christ, do not ignore the spiritual aspect when dealing with depression.

I don’t have a clever way to end this post. The suicide of anyone makes me very sad because it is so unnecessary. If you are depressed, get help. Self medication or trying to “gut it out” doesn’t work. Overcome your pride or your fear of being labeled, and get help.

You mean, it’s not about me? What?

I had an epiphany yesterday. Sometimes, over a long period of time, I will have bits and pieces of thoughts on a certain subject and then, for various reasons, all of those thoughts will come together into a cogent “aha!” moment. This was one of those. It occurred to me that my life really isn’t about me. Now, some of you are no doubt thinking “well, duh,” but let me explain what I mean by that.

I am not talking about a larger, teleological understanding that my life is really about God and His plan and everything I do or say is to bring glory to Him. I totally get that. I don’t always live that out, but I get it. I think sometimes it’s easier to understand or at least give lip service to that idea and how my life is part of a larger plan. What I’m specifically talking about, in this case, is how my life affects others. I think it’s harder to put life events into human terms. Of course, the larger picture of how my life affects others falls under the broader category of my life glorifying God and reflecting Jesus, but my epiphany was more immediate and visceral than that. I still haven’t explained what I’m talking about very well.

Depression is a very egocentric condition. If you are struggling with depression, or have in the past, I don’t mean to be condemning or critical, but it’s true. Having spent many years in depression myself, I understand that people spiral into depression or get locked into it because our eyes are on ourselves and our immediate circumstances. Our universe becomes very small. One of the ways that helped me get out of depression was when I forced myself into activities and thought patterns that focused on other people, not on my issues, problems, and circumstances. I’ve written about that in previous posts. I’ve come to understand, over the years, that many issues and difficult times I’ve experienced can and should be used to help other people, but yesterday things seemed to click into place about the broader scope of that.

What if my marriage has never been about my personal happiness or sense of fulfillment? What if it’s always been about the growth and sanctification (I hate “Christianese” words, but I can’t think of anything else that adequately expresses what I’m trying to say) of others? What if my childhood belief that I was destined for great things has nothing to do with what I’ve done, or will do, but with whom I’ve raised? No intended pressure, boys! What if every job I’ve ever had was never about personal achievement or acclaim, but about my interaction with other people? What if every painful or difficult event of my life was never about my emotional well-being or God protecting me from bad things, but about how those things would form the story of my life and allow me to be able to speak into the lives of other people?

Even as I write, I realize that none of this is a new idea to me. On some level, I’ve known all of this for years. Epiphanies are hard to explain, because they’re not just about facts, but about the emotional “aha” that comes with it. Maybe the true epiphany was not realizing those facts, but emotionally accepting them without being resentful. I would love to be able to tell you that I will never again be resentful or ask God “What about me? When is it my turn?” but I suspect that’s not true. As humans, and Americans in particular I think, we are predisposed to believe that everything really is about us and our happiness. Even if we say we believe otherwise, it’s very hard to overcome that innate self-centeredness and sense of self-protection.

Does accepting all of this mean that I am just grist to be thrown into the mill to be ground into something else and God doesn’t care about me personally? No. But I am constantly reminded that what I perceive I need to be happy and successful and what God knows I need to be fulfilled and live out the destiny He has set for me are two very different things. To paraphrase the show, Mythbusters, I can either “reject that reality and substitute it with my own,” or I can yield and go with the flow. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but I think I would rather go with the flow.

Surprised by joy

I know I stole that title from C.S. Lewis, but it feels like the best way to describe this post. I guess it’s really about positive versus negative thinking, which I’ve talked about before. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not really a negative thinker most of the time. I was trying to protect myself from being hurt and disappointed by just assuming the worst in any given situation, which is pretty typical, but it also can lead to depression or keep you in depression. At the very least, it robs you of joy and the opportunity to celebrate little and big moments in life. I would qualify most of my days the last few years (since I’ve overcome depression) as neutral – there are good things and bad things about each day and I appreciate the good things and cope with the bad things. Now, by nature, I believe I am what I call a pendulum person – extreme swings in highs and lows emotionally. I’ve worked really hard the last few years to find a “happy medium” to try to smooth out those peaks and valleys and bring some moderation into my life. Apparently, I’ve done a pretty good job, which is why I almost missed not just having a good day a couple of days ago, but a monumentally great, life-altering kind of day. Which is why I found myself surprised by joy.

Let me give you a brief recap of the day. First, I was asked to help oversee a work event because the people who would ordinarily be in charge were all out of town and they needed someone to fill in. This particular event was in an out-of-town location with which I am not particularly familiar, a job I’ve never done before, working with people I’ve never met before who themselves had never done this particular job before. What could possibly go wrong? The day started out a bit rocky when 3 people who were critical to the event never showed up and we had some minor technical problems. Now, I am pretty good at looking like I’m not freaking out, even if I am freaking out. The difference here was that I truly was not freaking out. Everybody readjusted, re-adapted, pitched in wherever needed, and the event actually went very smoothly and everybody seemed to relax and even enjoy what they were doing. I enjoyed the company of the 2 people I did know who traveled with me to run the event, and we had a beautiful drive back home. Great. It was encouraging to know that my own personal growth has allowed me to be more at peace internally, and not just look like I’m at peace. Later that same day, several things happened with my 2 grown college-age sons in the area of personal growth in relationships with other people and with each other. As usually happens when you have only 2 children, my sons are polar opposite personality types. They are close in age, so when they were little they played together a lot and seemed to be pretty good friends, but as they grew older sibling rivalry and personality clashes took over, and I’ve basically been waiting and praying for them to get to a point where they are friends again. I’ve seen glimpses every now and then, but just in the last few weeks I’ve seen some real growth in both of them in that area. But from my perspective, that day I saw and heard some things from each of them that I consider to be huge leaps in maturity and personal growth in both of them.

Here’s why I’m sharing all of this. At each of those moments, I was very pleased and on some level realized that this was all a big deal, but it wasn’t until I was actually going to sleep that night that it dawned on me what a monumentally big day this had been. I am still subconsciously “moderating” my emotions so that I don’t get too excited about things so that I won’t be disappointed later. Bummer. I think that realization, however, signifies a new level in my own emotional journey. This is really hard to put into words, but I think what I’ve been doing for the last few years is acknowledging that there are good things and bad things and allowing myself to enjoy the good things a little, but not fully because I’m still protecting myself a little bit. I think I am coming to a point where I can truly experience joy while still understanding that things are not always going to work out the way I want them to and bad things still happen, but the knowledge of potential pain doesn’t dampen the joy. What a convoluted thought! Are my sons going to be best buddies next week? Probably not. Are they going to still have relationship struggles in their lives with each other and other people? Of course. Am I ever going to fake not being freaked out over stuff in the future? Most assuredly. Life is a journey of stops and starts and taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back.

When I was first overcoming depression, I kept reminding myself that God doesn’t just want us to survive – He wants us to thrive. I feel like what I’ve been doing the last few years is sub-thriving (to all my ESL friends, no, that’s not a real word). Which is obviously better than just surviving, but there’s still so much more God wants us to experience. That doesn’t mean that God wants our lives to be happy and easy. I’ve heard it said that courage is not the absence of fear, but taking action despite the fear. In a similar way, I don’t think joy is the absence of pain or disappointment, but finding peace and centered-ness (I know that’s a Buddhist concept, but you know what I mean) in the face of difficult situations.

Even if you are not depressed, are you thriving or just surviving? Maybe you are a sub-thriver, like me. I want more than that, even if it means that opening myself up again to the highs also exposes me to the potential of the lows. How about you?

Really? Forgiveness? Again?

I feel compelled to discuss another aspect of forgiveness, so if you are already sick of that topic, this is not the post for you. I’ve already written quite a bit on how the act of forgiveness is really for the benefit of the person who was hurt, not the offender, and that’s true. Up to a point. I absolutely believe and have experienced that forgiving people who have hurt you deeply is a freeing and healing process, and it is the only thing that broke the chains of bondage to depression in my life. But, as is usually the case, I believe God has a bigger plan. It seems apparent to me from several examples in Scripture that God’s ultimate goal is restoration of both offendee and offender – the relationship between them and between them and Himself. Sometimes that just isn’t possible. The offender may be dead, or you simply may not know where he or she is and have no reasonable expectation of ever seeing him or her again. Time and time again, I have talked to people who have gone through the painful process of forgiveness, and yet they have never actually confronted the offending party, even when the offending party is readily available. It’s just too painful, or too intimidating, or too messy, or whatever. After all, you have forgiven the person and you are now free, so why get everybody upset by actually confronting the person you have forgiven? I am preaching to myself, by the way. I will confront people, but usually only when backed into a corner if it has to do with me personally. I have no real problem confronting people who are hurting others or who are involved in sin that has nothing to do with me emotionally, but when it comes to “standing up for myself,” I usually prefer to suffer in silence. Some people may see this as a desirable quality. I personally find it somewhat cowardly and ultimately selfish. Let me explain why.

Perhaps you have heard of or read the many references in the New Testament, from Jesus and others, to forgive people no matter what and no matter how many times. For some reason, I think most of us tend to interpret that as forgiving “little things” like money debts, property disputes, offensive remarks, etc. When it comes to the really big stuff like abandonment or abuse, especially from our childhood, that just doesn’t compute. But even if we do forgive them, we may not have the courage to confront them with their sin, or even see a reason to do so. Jesus does address that, but it’s easy to gloss over. The truth is, if we have forgiven someone but we fail to confront that person with their sin against us, we are actually robbing them of an opportunity to ask for forgiveness and to restore their relationship with us and with God. All sin, no matter who is hurt by it, is ultimately against God.

As usual, my “go to guy” in the Bible is David. You are probably familiar with the story about David and Bathsheba, but if you aren’t you can read it in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12. David not only commits adultery, he commits murder by trying to cover up his sin. Now, by this time, David had a long history of listening to and believing in God. Still, he tried to cover up his sin with Bathsheba so that people wouldn’t find out what he had done. Did David really believe that God would be unaware of his actions and that he could hide his sin from God? It seems highly unlikely, and yet he committed another sin by ordering Bathsheba’s husband to be killed. Was David unaware of his own sin? Of course not, and yet it wasn’t until God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sins that David finally confessed and repented. Even someone like David, someone that God called a man after His own heart, refused to deal with his own sin until he was confronted with it. Like David, a person who has committed a grave offense against you or someone else is probably not unaware of their sin, but it is amazing how we can deceive ourselves and lie and justify almost anything to ourselves. Until we are confronted. 

Now, if you are still in the middle of struggling with depression or other issues and you haven’t even gotten to the forgiveness stage yet, this isn’t really relevant to you. The idea of confronting and bringing restoration to the offending party is so far down the road for you that it may seem ridiculous and impossible.  Probably the last thing in the world you are concerned with right now is restoring someone who has hurt you deeply. But, for those of you who may have already gotten to the point of choosing to forgive, the next step for you may be to confront that person (or people) and providing them with the opportunity to ask you and God for forgiveness. A word of warning: just because you confront someone with a genuine desire for them to be restored to and forgiven by God, that doesn’t mean they will. They may excuse or even deny their behavior or actions, so be prepared for that. I personally believe that it is crucial to spend a lot of time in prayer before you confront a person from your past who has hurt you and be sure of your own motives. If you are confronting them just to unload emotionally and to make them feel bad for what they did, it might make you feel better in the moment, but it is unlikely to bring about any real restoration – for you or for them. You are not responsible for whether or not they receive what you are saying and whether or not they choose to ask for forgiveness.

This is really deep, next level kind of stuff. I do believe it is possible to truly forgive people without this, but I also believe God’s goal is full restoration for both parties, whenever possible. Just something to start thinking about.

You can’t always get what you want

Life is hard. Have you ever noticed that? If you’ve ever struggled with depression, you are probably more acutely aware of that than most people. I mean, yes, there are wonderful things in life and great moments and beautiful experiences, but a lot of life is difficult. As I talk to people who are either experiencing depression or just going through incredibly difficult situations, I’ve been thinking a lot about how prolonged difficulties can affect us. Sometimes it really is mostly a matter of perspective. Good things and bad things happen to everybody, but some of us just tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive. Sometimes it isn’t just a matter of negative thinking. I have several friends who are dealing with debilitating, life-threatening illnesses or unbelievably soul-sucking life circumstances. As believers, we pray for God to rescue us from our circumstances, change us or our circumstances, or heal whatever is broken. I have seen some amazing answers to those prayers – in ways that I never would have imagined. And sometimes, the healing doesn’t come, the broken places aren’t fixed, and we wait for a rescue that doesn’t come. Or at least, that’s the way it looks.

I’ve been through the valley of the shadow of death. Not health-wise, but with depression for many years. I spent over a decade begging God to change me, change my life, change anything but just deliver me from what felt like a truly impossible situation. I felt trapped, like there was no way out, and I felt abandoned by God. Maybe you or someone you know has been praying for years for relief or rescue from what feels like an impossible situation, and you’ve become weary and lost hope that your life will ever be better. It’s easy to start believing that either God is not hearing your pleas, or that He simply doesn’t care. I’ve been there, and I know what a hollow, desperate feeling it is. One thing I’ve learned is that God does not work the same way in everybody’s life. He knows what we need and when we need it, and that frequently doesn’t line up with what we think we need and when we think we need it. We tend to compare ourselves and our circumstances with other people and their circumstances. We figure that if God worked in a certain way in somebody else’s life, then surely He will do that for us, as well. And if it doesn’t work out that way, we feel like God has let us down, or maybe that somehow He has promised us something and then not lived up to that promise. The problem is that God never promised us that He will answer our prayers the way we want Him to. I hate that, but it’s true.

Sometimes the emotional pain just never seems to end, no matter how we implore God, and we wonder why. Again, I don’t even pretend to know why God does what He does or assume that everybody’s situation is like mine, but I think after many years I have begun to understand, at least a little, why I spent so many years begging God for an answer that never seemed to come. In my case, I needed to deal with issues from my past and forgive people who had hurt me before I could deal with the present pain and issues in my life. If God had stepped in and “rescued” me before the healing was complete, before I went through the difficult process of forgiveness,  I don’t believe I ever would have persevered to the end. Even if I had been given a little relief, I would have become comfortable with the fact that life was at least tolerable, and I doubt I ever would have continued the painful process of full healing. I think that’s probably true for most of us. If you are in a crucible and you’ve been there for a long time and you don’t understand why God doesn’t seem to be giving you any relief, maybe He wants you to deal with some of the hard issues from your past. Maybe there are areas where you haven’t forgiven people who have hurt you, and you don’t even realize you are harboring bitterness or hurt. God wants full healing and restoration for us, not just a band-aid. To be honest, most of us would be just fine with a temporary fix – anything seems better than the present pain. The one thing I know is that He has not forgotten or forsaken you. That, by the way, is a promise that He has made to us. He is there in the fire with you. If nothing seems to be getting any better with depression or life situations, no matter what you do, maybe it’s time to ask God to show you if there is something you need to deal with that doesn’t even seem to have anything to do with your present situation. Just a thought.