A couple of days ago, I watched the sunrise. It was beautiful. It cast its fire like rays on Pikes Peaks snow-capped face making it shimmer and sparkle like the stars. Colors of periwinkle blue, tangerine orange, cotton candy pink and lemon yellow danced and twirled through the sky. In awe at the beauty that surrounded me I thought to myself, “It is so good to be alive!”
I love times like that. Times where the rushing of the world stops, my current struggles are not as important and the beauty and creativity of God shines through. It was as if I was sharing a moment with God in His peaceful garden in the sky. A time where Psalm 19:1, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” rang so true!
Yet, even when the heavens proclaim God’s greatness, there are days when it seems all the beauty in our lives is suddenly turned from vibrant shades of innumerable colors to utter darkness. Over the past 11 months, I feel as though I have been in a boot camp of sort in this area and have learned one basic thing. Even when the world surrounds us with darkness, God’s enduring light and love is there too. The question is how do we find Him when we are consumed by despair?
I certainly don’t pretend to have it all figured out and still have a long way to go on those dark and disappointing days. I have however, learned some basics that are really helping me stay more steady when the pages of my life are written far differently than I would choose.
Stay Teachable – When I am discouraged it is so easy to cut my heart off from the Lord and the world. Even though it is difficult, I am learning how important it is to stay open-handed and open-hearted. While we should be always listening to wise counselors and diving into the scriptures, it is even more important to do so when we are feeling low. Staying rooted in the scriptures and allowing others to speak into our lives is a foundational principle we all need to grow in.
This past year I have learned a very practical lesson about staying teachable. My brain injury has caused what my therapists call “cognitive inflexibility”. When I asked my cognitive therapist to explain what that meant, she said pretty simply, “You think you are right when you’re wrong and when I try to explain why you are wrong, you don’t believe me.” sigh.
Believing she was TOTALLY WRONG, I went home and asked Phillip what he thought about what she said. He looked at square in the eyes and said, “She is absolutely right. You need to be willing to listen to those you love.”
What a humbling lesson. What a profound truth. (Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.)
Remember to Look Back and Up – My Uncle has taught me to take time to place markers where the Lord has met me. He has urged for me to write them on the tablet of my heart so when those difficult times roll in, I can look back and remember all he has done for me. I have discovered the great value of this counsel because when I take a moment to look back, I am compelled to look up to Lord and praise Him. The truth of His never-failing love in my life brings me to a point of praise.
Let there be no doubt, no matter the circumstance, His light can penetrate the darkest darkness — even in those hidden places of your soul. (Genesis 35:3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”Understand – Throughout the past 11 months I have struggled with depression in ways I never have before. My cognitive therapist has explained that the epi overdose messed with the chemicals in my brain and has caused this tendency towards depression. Whether she is right or not, the hopelessness of depression has loomed many a day in my life since February 9, 2o11. In learning to live with this new frailty in my life, I have realized life is not about performance or facades. We are all in process and that process doesn’t end until we are finally in Heaven. I believe, if we can’t be understanding of ourselves and our own weaknesses, we will never comprehend our need for His loving arms and overflowing grace. His love goes deeper than we could ever imagine but we must be willing to be fragile, real, broken and humble — believe it or not it is the safest place we could ever be! (Ephesians 3:18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.)
Strength – The scriptures says in Isaiah 40:31, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…” Over the past year my life has been living proof of this verse. On my worst days when I have chosen to trust and hope in the Lord I have found amazing strength. On my worst days when I have chosen to go it on my own, I have only found consuming weakness and all encompassing fear.
I believe one of the greatest tools of bitterness and depression is the lie that we have no strength and we cannot go on. If we believe that, our lives become dark, hopeless and weak. If however, we look to the Lord for His strength and use it to stand against those waves of darkness; we gain courage, and strength that will carry us through the day. (Psalm 31:24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! — Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.)
Trust – This is the most important point and yet probably the most difficult. To “trust” is so much easier than it sounds especially when we live in a world that teaches us to rely on ourselves. Trusting the Lord requires us to humble ourselves. This, I must admit, has been one of my life’s greatest struggles.
For so long, I believed if I set my mind to accomplish something, I could do it. It didn’t matter what it was. If I wanted it, I would be successful. That, unfortunately, came from a very prideful heart within me.
Over the last 11 months I have been greatly humbled. There are things that no matter how hard I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to accomplish them. Talk about frustrating. Looking back one thing is very clear. On the days I have been able to trust the Lord I have been amazed at the mountains I have been able to climb. On the days I have not trusted Him, I have been amazed by my utter despair and sadness.
Trusting God is really the heart of the matter and the beginning of where His light penetrates the darkness that surrounds. When we do it, no matter the circumstance, our hearts can be filled with colors of hope and joy like those I watched fill the sky just a couple of days ago. Trusting the Lord breathes hope into hopelessness, joy into sorrow and peace into a bitter heart! (Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.)
With our foundations built on trusting God, the darkest days of our lives can be filled with his strength, grace and beauty. May we all learn how to trust Him more and more and may we all stop and be amazed by His enduring beauty and love!