Monday, August 4, 2014

Getting Your Joy Back Again

 Having traveled the road of despair more than one time in my life, I know how it feels to lose the sense of joy that comes from walking with the Lord.  It was not that the Lord ever left me for an instant, but rather, it was the "dark night of the soul" that plagued me for a while.  Some call it depression, but I referred to it as a deep, dark pit from which I felt I might never escape.  For me, it was a combination of life altering events that all seemed to converge at one time leaving me emotionally drained.  Along with this unwelcome visitor came anxiety and panic attacks as well.  When these all came along, it was hard to carry on my normal life.  I wanted to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head, but at the time, our four children were still young, I was homeschooling and trying to care for my mother who had Alzheimer's.  I had to keep going.  However, there came a time when I realized I needed help in reclaiming the joy of the Lord.
      Certainly, the first placed I turned to was God's Word.  Psalms have always been my retreat when
I have needed solace.  There David and the other authors shared their hearts before the Lord.  Two Psalms especially come to mind that were a blessing to me Psalm 42 and 43.  Psalm 42:5-6a  asks a question that anyone struggling with their emotions might relate to:  "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 and my God."  Later in the same Psalm, the writer asks the question again.  When we are in the midst of pain, it is not unusual to ask ourselves this question.  It is almost as if the writer is reassuring himself that life will once again shine with God's light and joy.  He points to that in the verse by saying "I shall again praise Him".
     In turning to Psalm 43, we read in verse 5 these words:  "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 and my God."  Here the writer states a positive:  "hope in God; for I shall again praise Him..."  We may not feel like praising God when walking through the shadows of depression, but we know that in the end, God is our salvation.  For me, this became my "sacrifice of praise" to God each day as I walked along.
     Along with scripture and prayer, I also sought out some godly counsel.  I think this is important when we are facing the "dark night of the soul".  Some people think counseling is a waste of time or a sign of weakness, but I found it a blessing.  Having another Christian help you sort out and face the painful circumstances of life from the perspective of God's Word helps us see things from another point of view.  We are badly in need of this remedy when we are entombed in the darkness of depression.  The enemy of our soul wants us to remain isolated and feeling all alone.
     Finally, we may need medical treatment with medication.  I share this because many Christians hate the thought of taking any medication.  There are those who view it as weakness or a crutch.  I came from a family that thought this way.  However, God has provided doctors with the means to treat depression, anxiety and panic.  Along with counseling, medication may be necessary in order to bring things back into balance.  There is no shame in this.  The shame lies in the fact that many who could benefit from treatment often do not seek it as a result of this thinking.
     Depression is often described as anger turned inward on ourselves.  It can result in physical symptoms as well as emotional ones.  We feel powerless to change our situation or perhaps disappointed that we could not have prevented it.  However, we serve a God who has and will never leave us nor forsake us, and in order to get back to that place of deep joy we may need to exercise all of the things I have suggested.
     Life in a broken world with all the pressures, expectations, and deadlines is hard on a daily basis.  However, throw in a crisis, loss, or painful situation and we, too, can fall into the pit of despair.  Churches and fellow Christians need to be aware of this and come alongside those who suffer in this way.  There is no quick fix or overnight remedy, but the joy does return, and I can tell you that walking through it helps us to grow in our trust in the Lord.  We are then able to sympathize and assist others also facing this.  At one time, I had a sign above our computer that read:  "Joy isn't the absence of sorrow.  It is the presence of God."  He is there all the time, and along with the Psalmist we must remind ourselves to "hope in the Lord for we will again praise Him."  May you be comforted today in what I have shared and if you know someone who has suffered in this way, please feel free to share this.

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