Depression Hurts

September 23, 2012

Depression hurts.

I can remember watching that commercial when I was about ten years old and mocking that statement. How could an emotion cause physical pain? At this point, the only pain I had experienced came as a result of strep throat or a scraped knee. I had no idea what real pain felt like. I used to think that people who were depressed couldn’t laugh or have fun. They cried all the time and never smiled. As long as you could smile, you couldn’t be depressed. It was this mentality that kept me from confessing my depression for a long time.

Having battled depression for some time now, I know exactly what that statement means. And it does hurt. It’s a constant dull ache with an occasional stabbing pain in your soul. I’d rather have strep throat and scrape my knees a thousand times. When you get strep throat, there’s a cure. When you scrape your knee, someone hands you a Band-Aid. There is a definite end to the pain. Depression isn’t like that. It doesn’t have an instant cure, and there is no projected end date or estimated time of departure.

It is very difficult for me to trust that the Lord knows what He’s doing when this darkness will not lift no matter what I do. I’ve tried to pray, obey, and play my way out of this “season”, and yet here I am. For some reason that I have yet to understand, the Lord is allowing me to be depressed. He is allowing me to sit in sadness and grief and pain because He loves me. And even as I type that sentence, I know how crazy it sounds.

But in the moments when I don’t get it, when nothing makes sense, when I don’t know the answers, I have to go back to what I know about the Lord and His character and His love for me. When questions like, “Why would the Lord be ok with me being sad and in pain?” and “Why won’t He fix this?” pop into my head, I have to counter them with truth about who He is. I may never know the answers to my questions. All I have is the truth He has revealed to me through His Word. He is good and He is for my good. His ways are higher than mine. He delights in giving good things to His children. He satisfies my soul and fills it with good things. My definition of good is very different from His, but He invented the concept so I’ll trust He knows what it means.

I read a post on a friend’s blog long before I entered this season that has brought great encouragement and clarity to me while I’ve been in this desert. She was right in the middle of a desert season and was beginning to understand why she was there. She said that storms make you strong. Deserts make you weak. The last thing she needed was more strength. She needed more weakness.

After the storm of 2009, I gained a lot of strength. After my back surgery, I developed a mentality that if I could make it through all of that pain and frustration and difficulty, I could handle anything. I felt somewhat invincible. “I can do anything through ME who strengthens me” became my motto.

The Lord has used the past year to break that down. I am absolutely aware of my need for Him because there are days, lots of days, when I can’t get out of bed without His help. Every foot in front of the other feels like work. If He didn’t move my feet, I’m not sure I would ever go anywhere. It is by His grace that I haven’t missed work over this. I’ve been able to continue to engage in community and serve and disciple women at my church. The scary thoughts I’ve had have been quickly interrupted by the Spirit speaking truth to me. I’ve cried a lot of tears, screamed a lot of profanity, and slept entirely too much. But the Lord has not left me. He has grieved right along with me and put my tears in His bottle. I am depressed, but I’m depressed with hope. My hope is in Christ, not in my circumstances or situation. I am deeply loved by my God who doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and with Him, there is no variation or shadow of turning. He is jealous for me. He has brought me into the wilderness and allured me. It is hot and dry and uncomfortable, but He provides enough water for every step of the journey.

Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise. Isaiah 43:18-21

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul,
sand the hungry soul he fills with good things. Psalm 107:4-9

Cyber Reporting-Soli-Deo Gereja

April 9, 2008

“Mengalir, dan mengalir…mengalir melebihi hidupku.”

We were late.  This is not uncommon for me…but we were really late.  The service had already begun when we arrived so we sneaked in quietly and stood in a row towards the back. I scanned the room to get a feel for my surroundings.  It was a small and cozy room, and there were no more than twenty people there that day.  There were two women and one man standing at the front singing passionately words I didn’t understand: “Dia membaringkan aku di padang yang berumput hijau”.  I was told later that this is a verse from Mazmur (Psalm) 23.  There are few things that bring me greater pleasure than watching people worship, particularly if they are doing so in another language.  I don’t need to know the exact words to understand what they are saying.  The sincere looks on their faces, their furrowed brows, and tightly closed eyes tell me all I need to know. They are in love with their Creator and Savior just as I am.

The music fades, and the pastor takes his place behind the podium.  He immediately notices the three new faces before him and asks us to stand up.  April, Vina, and I sheepishly take turns introducing ourselves and then quickly sit back down.  As the pastor begins, I put on the headset that I was given when I first walked through the door and immediately heard the voice of the English translator.  The message that day was about the core beliefs of the church and the growth of that tiny body of believers.  I didn’t really understand much of what he said because anyone who has ever been in a position like this knows that things (quite literally) get lost in translation.  It didn’t really matter to me though because I was fascinated by what I was hearing. The Indonesian language is absolutely beautiful, and I love listening to it.  Rolling r’s, glottal stops, and varied intonation set it apart from anything else I’ve heard.

When the service concludes, we were bombarded by Indonesians coming to meet us and, most likely, to find out what brought the two American girls to an Indonesian church service.  I’ve been to several Asian churches in the last few years, and I always find that the response of the congregation is the same: overwhelming hospitality.  That is one thing, among others, that I feel like American Christians often lack so it’s always refreshing to see it at these churches.  We were quickly ushered into the next room where dinner awaits us.  The verdict is still out on what exactly we ate that night, but all I know is that it was delicious. It consisted of vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, chicken, potatoes, and green onions and was accompanied by nasi (rice) of course.  We sat down at a table by ourselves, but one of the women from the worship team immediately came to sit with us and talked to us about the church and how she came to the U.S.  It was so nice to meet and talk with her. We also had people come at random points during the meal to offer us more food.

This entire experience was fairly new to me.  I grew up in a church that has 2,000 people who attend every weekend, and I regularly attend a church of over 4,000 committed members. Yet, I felt more comfortable and at home with this tiny group of believers than I ever had at either of these churches. As we finished our meal and started toward the door, we were thanked for coming and asked repeatedly to come back next week.  I can’t explain the peace I felt there, and I will most definitely be going back to Soli Deo Gereja.

Car Alarms

February 27, 2008

Heeelllloooo…I’m a caaaaarrrr…GASOLINE MAKES ME RUN…Back seat…Trunk space…Heeelllloooo…Let’s go for a riiiide…OIL IS MY BLOOD…Seat belt…Radio knob…

There are probably very few people who will read this and actually know what I was referring to just then. If you do, we’re probably friends. If not, we should be.

There are some sounds that as soon as you hear them, take you back to other times and places. Other sounds lull you into a state of peace and make you instantly happy like the sound of a small child giggling. Still, others make you want to run away from the scene screaming. For me, there is one sound that fits all of these categories: the car alarm.

In order to fully understand my special connection with car alarms, you have to know a little bit about my car, Sally. Though she’s a great car, Sally can be a bit territorial at times. She doesn’t mean anything by it. She just doesn’t like to be messed with by anyone who isn’t me and likes to make people aware of that. I had only gotten small tastes of her temperamental demeanor until one day when Sally decided to show me she meant business.

It all started when my roommate Leana and I went to the mall one afternoon to do some shopping. I got out of the car and pushed the clicker to lock Sally just as I always do. Leana also locked the door from the inside of the car. We found out later that the double locking action activates the car alarm. Ordinarily, this would not have been a problem, however while we were inside the mall, my clicker decided to disappear and was not coming back anytime soon. After a mild freak out, I went to manually unlock the car door. Big mistake. Sally went completely berserk for about a minute and then the alarm stopped. I quickly put the key into the ignition and started her up. No problem. Leana and I breathed a sigh of relief and went on our merry way. This happened a few more times, and while it was a little embarrassing, I learned to deal with it. I just let Sally throw her temper tantrum for a bit, and then when she calmed down, I would fire up the engine.

The following weekend, I traveled with a group of friends to my friend’s house in Burleson for her parent’s vow renewal ceremony. It was about 11:30 pm on the night we had arrived and my friend realized that she needed to get something out of my car. Remembering Sally’s attitude problem, I warned her that the alarm would go off but it would stop in a few moments. Just as I expected, as soon as I turned the key, Sally started ranting and raving. Then, just as before, she stopped and I quickly put the key in the ignition…but Sally started on round two.

Now, I forgot to mention that my car alarm makes the loudest and most annoying sound on the planet. If anybody cares to contest this, they can see me in the parking lot…seriously. If I were to describe it, I would say it sounds like a mix between a gang of alley cats fighting over the last scrap of garbage and the honks from a flock of tone deaf geese.

Please keep in mind that it is 11:30 pm and I am in a formerly quiet residential area. Round two is longer and more annoying as Sally has decided to experiment by using new and different sounds. When round two ends, I try the key. It won’t budge and Sally starts again.

At this time, my friend’s dad comes running out of the house with his wife and all of my friends following closely behind him. We are standing in the middle of the street yelling at each other, just so we can be heard over Sally’s wailing. My friend’s dad has his head underneath the hood of my car the night before his vow renewal ceremony. Neighbors start pouring out of their houses yelling at me. One woman even came over and told me I had to turn it off because her mother had cancer and was trying to sleep. I am just sitting helplessly in my car.

At this point, I am on the verge of tears, but my friends are finding all of this hilarious of course…because they’re only innocent bystanders. Finally, at about midnight, my friend’s dad decides that the only way to stop the alarm is to disconnect the battery, which he does and Sally and the rest of go to sleep. I went home the very next day and got the spare clicker, and all was good and happy again. I found the original clicker in the floorboard of my car the next week.

Now, any time I hear a car alarm going off in the parking lot, I am reminded of that fun-filled night and have to laugh at my own misfortune. As those around me are gritting their teeth or rolling their eyes, I am saying a little prayer for the owner of that feisty vehicle.

n61800015_30034014_3026.jpg

For Good or Evil

February 20, 2008

The Internet is a very powerful resource that has literally changed the way our world operates. It has made information available at the touch of a keyboard…though you don’t even need a keyboard in some cases since the Internet can now be accessed through your cell phone or even your blackberry. Whenever positive advances are made in the realm of technology, negative aspects never take long to surface. As Christians, it is our responsibility to take special caution that we do not abuse this valuable resource but rather use to bring glory to the Lord.

Pornography is one way that the Internet is being abused and is quickly becoming one of the most prominent addictions in our society. It is estimated that 9 out of every 10 male college students have viewed or will view some form of pornography at some point in their college career. I personally know several people who have fallen into this unrelenting snare.

While the Internet does contribute to the problem of pornography, there are also Internet sites that help those held in bondage by their addiction to find victory over this disease.

XXXchurch.com, for instance, is a site dedicated to that purpose. They even have a downloadable accountability software program called X3 Watch. The program allows a person to submit e-mail addresses of accountability partners, and then each time that person visits a pornographic web site, e-mails are sent to that list of people. This organization’s efforts have resulted in countless testimonies of people who have overcome their addiction and are now living in victory.

XXX Church led a seminar at my home church not too long ago, and I was really encouraged by the way that these men are going against the grain to reach out and make a difference. I feel that all too often, Christians’ primary way of dealing with issues like pornography is to stick their fingers in their ears and hide in a corner rather than fight to push back the encroaching darkness. There are too many Christians who choose to withdraw from society rather than stick around and fight to change their surroundings. Let us be different. May we use the technology that we have available to us for good in order to combat the evil.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  -Edmund Burke

Here we go…

February 10, 2008

Here it is: my first blog post. I recently sat down with myself and asked myself a series of questions…5 to be exact. Let’s consider this part of a quest to self-discovery…or a requirement for my technology in communications class.  :p

Jess: What do you plan to do after you graduate?

Jess: Well, this is just about my favorite question to answer right now. The answer is certainly up for debate. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. I would love to eventually end up in an Asian country teaching English or a speech class or something to that effect. As for an actual post-graduation plan, I got nothin. I am willing to go anywhere and do anything, and I know that my Heavenly Daddy has some awesome plans for my life. I just wish He’d let me in on it.  

Jess: What are your favorite things to do?

Jess: I really enjoy experiencing new things. I like being around people who have customs, traditions, accents, and stories that are different from my own. Therefore, I’m game for anything that forces me outside of my comfort zone. I have also recently acquired a passion for cooking.

Jess: Ah, so you like to cook. What is your favorite meal to make?

Jess: Right now, it’s Moroccan lamb. You chop up lamb into bite size pieces, coat with seven different spices, and sautee with onions, garlic, dates, and golden raisins. Then, you serve it over couscous with pine nuts. Yum.

Jess: I see that you like experiencing new things and you like food from other countries. Have you ever been to another country?

Jess: Actually, yes I have. Last summer, I taught English for five weeks in China. The summer before last, I was in Taiwan teaching English for one month. I loved every minute of both trips, and I miss my kids very much. I still talk to some of them online every once in a while.  

Jess: Here is a somewhat random question because I have run out of things to ask you. What are your greatest fears?

Jess: I am terribly afraid of E.T. I don’t know what it is, I just can not handle him. It is my goal to watch that movie all the way through without covering my eyes. I will do it…eventually. Also, I live in constant fear that I will get lice. I don’t know why. I have had more nightmares about lice than about anything else.