I haven’t always been an optimist.
Near on 5 years ago, I found myself buried in the thick of a significant bout of depression.
Without going into too much detail, I felt a very strong sense of spiritual disconnectedness and abandonment. I began to socialize in unhealthy circles and wound up in a string of destructive relationships/friendships and began to experiment with drugs. I also felt chronically lonely and if I hadn’t been so staunchly against suicide, I may well have given it a go.
I was brought up in a very loving Christian home. I grew up knowing very well the facts and theories of faith but the trouble was, they never made their way far enough south to cement themselves in my heart. There were a couple of factors that fueled my spiritual emptiness… to this day I can’t remember very much about the night I accepted Christ and my Baptism proved to be a small religious blip on what was fast becoming a very secular radar. I felt fraudulent and completely hypocritical.
I spent a few years searching for experiences and feelings… I did my best to sing loud with my eyes shut tight and hands raised heavenward – but it just seemed that God wasn’t at all interested in ‘slaying me in the spirit’ or indeed, giving me any sense of His presence at all. I quickly became totally frustrated and generally hacked off at God’s unwillingness to avail Himself to me.
I recently came across an old exercise book that I used to write my song lyrics in. It was fascinating to read some of the stuff I wrote whilst struggling through these times… things like:
Waste my life away, fighting on my own
Turns my soul to grey, turns my heart to stone.
Nothing I can do, washes out the stain
Hurting constantly, driving me insane
I can’t see the Son for all the rain
Slowly losing my mind
That is one of the tamer ones – I shared some with Suzanna and I think I might have freaked her out a bit. Darkness is just the most awful place to be.
People often laugh at older people who say, “If I knew then what I know now…” Well, that is exactly what it is like for me.
Last year I participated in Rick Warren’s famed 40 Days of Purpose program. Within the first week, an enormous nugget of truth hit me squarely between the eyes.
It isn’t about me, never has been, never will be. It is however, all about God. We are created for HIS pleasure and to bring Him glory, honour and edification.
If I’d known that 5 years ago, I may have been spared a very disturbing time in my life.
I was demanding that God reveal Himself to me – searching for feelings and experiences and when they didn’t happen, I threw my toys out of the cot and sent invitations to my own pity party.
I think most of us go through some very dark times – what St. John of the Cross refers to as the “Long Dark Night of the Soul”. God seems distant, right when we feel we need to hear from Him the most – right when we may be at our wits end, our lowest ebb.
These times can either ruin or reinforce our faith… it is a choice we alone can make.
Regardless of our circumstances, God calls us to praise Him. Sometimes praise comes easy – in the ‘summer’ of our soul when all is well, the birds sing and the sun shines warmly on our backs. But what about when ‘winter’ descends?
Yesterday as I sat in church, I was praying for my best mate who is experiencing the ‘winter’ of the soul at the moment. As I prayed, I had a strong sense of God reminding me of the call to praise Him in all circumstances. The bible talks of a ‘sacrifice of praise’ – and it is only a sacrifice if it doesn’t come easy. It is then, most significantly I believe, that God delights in the praises of His people. When they experience darkness and pain yet choose to offer praise and worship, regardless!
There is a fail-safe method to lifting ourselves out of self-pity in order to praise God ‘in the storm’…
1. Remember that our circumstances do not change who God is… He is glory,
majesty, omnipotence, omnipresence, love, justice, grace and mercy. Always.
2. He is the same God; yesterday, today, forever.
The enemy can play around with our circumstances, but he cannot change history…
We may not always feel like praising God, but He will always be worthy of it.