It all started when I cried out to God about a particular sin in my life… I think. I see it there, but it had become so normal and so part of my life that I sometimes don’t even feel repentant anymore. I wanted it gone. I prayed… It’s funny that this wasn’t the first time I felt this way or prayed such a prayer. I had done it countless times before, but this time was different… God sent depression.
Over the last 2 months, I have been slowly coming out of my shell to talk a little about my struggles to some of you close to me. Before this episode, I had never wanted to hide who I am. I never believed in facades and pretend life is always rosy. So in writing this, I’m coming out saying that, yes, life is really quite down at the moment.
But through it all, in many, many small but wonderfully amazing ways, I see God’s mercy renewed every morning. It is in my weakness, His strength is made perfect. I realised that as my mind and my heart is crushed and dragged through the mud each night. As I struggle to fight my negative thoughts. As I cry and cry… God is never far away. Reminding me he’s still there. At every corner when I just want to run, He meets me there. Showing me His love, through people around me, through my wonderful wife, through scripture and in many other ways.
As I go through this, the natural questions I would ask and even sometimes through my sobs to God would be “Why? Why is this happening? Haven’t my family and I gone through enough? Haven’t I been faithfully trying my best to love you and others around me? Then why?” I know in my head that this is a result of the curse of Sin and its effect on this world. Our minds are not immune to imperfections. Our bodies as well. Hormones, even slightly off balance, can play with your mind and cause you to spiral into an emotional wreck. Thanks to Kat’s latest reminder to read a book she’s been reading, I now see, with some clarity, how I responded. And I take some comfort, again, in the fact that I’ll be alright… eventually.
She got me to read chapter 3 in the book by Edward T. Welch called Side By Side. In there, it talks about the fact that when things get hard (as they always will), when we start to have our internal voices going at each other, we have a choice. We could let these thoughts go against God and convict him of the injustice we’re experiencing or we can hold fast to his promises and ride through the storm – worn down, hurt but survive. The chapter reminded me of Psalm 22:1-31 and really comforted me about how I grieved through this plight. I cried, I lamented and I fought… with God. But I never once blamed and convicted him for not loving me. I knew I asked to be changed. I knew this was how he’ll do it. I knew this was the only way to get a lot of “gunk” in my life OUT of my life. Because I am still holding on to sinfulness. Because I am still wilful and selfish.
As the writer said in the chapter. I chose to tell myself, “nothing has changed”. I still live in a fallen world, full of cancer, depression, bullying, brutality, terrorism, sexual confusion… I love him and I love others through them. The only difference is, it’s at my doorstep now. No, it’s in my mind and heart now. This didn’t change the fact the Jesus died and rose for me. This didn’t change the fact the Jesus is still my Lord and the reason I can love God and worship him. So yeah… nothing has changed. Sure, I might cry a lot more. I might be easily irritable. I might be angry with myself. I might feel guilty and shameful at the slightest things. I might be needy and hate myself for being needy. I might not be able to process conflict and complex situations as easily as I used to. But nothing has changed.
Why did God let this happen? So that I can grow. Grow in reliance on him and his strength instead of my own. Instead of my own pride-filled, lust-filled and angry self. The Apostle Paul summarised it well here even as he went through it himself:
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV