Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Lord is not in the storm

My boys are at football practice, Caleb and Abigail are knitting, Hayden and Lily are sleeping, the dryer is purring, the dishes are drying, and Tillie is asleep somewhere not peeing on the carpet.

I have a small window of time here, and I'm taking advantage of it.

I was reading the comments last night on my last two posts HERE and HERE that began this mini series on anxiety and depression. There were many comments on my instagram account in regards to those posts, and my inbox is full of women saying the same thing- I've been there too. 

I have so many avenues I want to go down in this series, and I keep praying about which ones to go down next. The other day I went back and read some of the entries in my old journals, detailing what I was going through mentally, physically, emotionally and even spiritually, and I just marveled at what God has brought me through. Looking back, I think a few things stand out : my husband was a saint for putting up with me, and so were my kids, and so was my pastor. And God was faithful through it all. I felt so lost for awhile, and I remember telling my pastor - I don't know ONE person who has ever felt this way.

But I was so wrong.

I wish I could have known all of you who have left such heartfelt comments empathizing with me - we could have had many virtual cups of tea and talked our way through things.

Because so much of what I experienced was a complete sense of being alone. I felt like I was drowning in guilt and fear, and I just wanted someone to say- I've been there. And it's going to be okay.

Thankfully I had a pastor who knew exactly what I was going through, and he prayed and talked me through so much. And Sam - although he had never been through the specific things I was going through - was my rock. There were so many days- I mean day after day after day - when I would call him at work, crying, and say "Can you talk me through this?" He would drop everything (whenever possible) and listen to me pour out what was tormenting my mind. And he would pray with me, and encourage me and most of all tell me the thing that got me through - this is the depression talking, babe. That's all it is. This isn't God, this isn't you - this is depression.

If you haven't been through anxiety and/or depression, this post may not make much sense. And that is probably because anxiety and depression don't make much sense. It's more a "feeling" for lack of a better word, that everything is wrong- it's an unshakable feeling of impending doom. And you can have everyone telling you that you're going to be okay, and you can read scriptures that you're going to be okay, and you can read books telling you that you're going to be okay, but when this thing hits, everything in you is screaming that you are not going to be okay.

So begging my husband again and again to tell me that I was going to be okay, and hearing him say : this is the depression talking - brought me back to the beginning of the unraveling in my brain. Maybe you can relate to what I just said- the unraveling in my brain. Because when you are in the midst of anxiety and panic, your brain does what professionals often call "rabbit holing."

It's like you go burrowing down these holes in your mind, looking for answers - but all you're doing is tunneling. You aren't getting out, you aren't feeling better by over-analyzing everything, you are just going down down down...and if you don't stop you're going to hit a black hole.

My pastor gave me a quote from William Styron once, that was so fitting - this is going to be a little wordy, but re-read it if you need to...because this guy nails depression.

"As one who has suffered from the malady in extremis yet returned to tell the tale, I would lobby for a truly arresting designation. 'Brainstorm,' for instance, has unfortunately been preempted to describe, somewhat jocularly, intellectual inspiration. But something along these lines is needed. Told that someone's mood disorder has evolved into a storm--a veritable howling tempest in the brain, which is indeed what a clinical depression resembles like nothing else--even the uniformed layman might display sympathy rather than the standard reaction that "depression" evokes, something akin to "So what?" or "You'll pull out of it" or "We all have bad days." The 'phrase nervous breakdown' seems to be on its way out, certainly deservedly so, owing to its insinuation of a vague spinelessness, but we still seem destined to be saddled with "depression" until a better, sturdier name is created."

Did you get that ? He was lamenting the fact that the term "brainstorm" had already been taken, because it was such a more fitting word than plain old "depression."

So really today, what I want to address is this one simple thought ... The Lord is not in the storm.

If you're not a Christian, or you've never faced depression, that little sentence sounds like a no-big-deal kind of sentence.

But for me it was life saving.

I'm not going to take any credit for this revelation - you can give that to the writer of 1 Kings for this one, and ultimately give credit to God for inspiring him to write it.

Here's the passage I'm talking about. Please don't let your eyes glaze over if you've read it before... because if you really look at what Elijah was going through, it was full blown depression. I'm using the King James version here, because I love the beauty and cadence of the words...

But (Elijah) himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
15 And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
1 Kings 19:4-18

My pastor is the one who helped me see in this scripture a beautiful picture of who God was.

Because He wasn't in the storm.

Everything can be coming against you in depression, and at times it can feel like it is God who is bringing the storm, and maybe even that He IS the storm. But He isn't.

And He wasn't in the shaking of the earth.

You can be totally shaken in the middle of depression - nothing feels normal, everything you once knew to be true about life feels shaken, nothing seems familiar, and if you're not careful you can attribute that feeling to God.

And He wasn't in the fire.

In the midst of mental and emotional anguish, it can feel like all hell is coming against you, and when guilt is at the forefront of your mind, it is so easy to assume it is all coming from the Lord. It is so easy to assume that a guilty conscience automatically means God is dealing with us about something - everything !!! - so that we can get it right.

But listen to who God was -

...and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Do you see this ?

The Lord wasn't in the storm, the earthquake, the fire- He was the still small voice.

Maybe you can't relate to any of this post- if so, just come back later and I'll be blogging about another aspect of anxiety and depression.

But for me, one of the hardest things to overcome during my experience with these two issues was believing that what I was going through was a punishment from the Lord. I was convinced that somewhere somehow I had gone wrong, and the intense guilt and isolation I felt was God leaving me to myself and allowing this torment to come over my mind.

I have more to say about this later - because the wonderful thing that God (and my pastor and Sam !) helped me to see was this truth: God is a merciful and loving Father. Yes, He is a judge - if I am not surrendered to Him, if I haven't given my life to Him and repented of my sins and asked His forgiveness, then He is a righteous judge. But right alongside of that is the TRUTH - that He is a gracious and loving and merciful Father. He is the still small voice in the midst of your storm.

Grasp that truth and hold on to it  - when you are sinking in depression and it feels like that brainstorm will never pass - please believe this : The Lord is not in the storm. He is the still small voice.

My favorite scripture ever in dealing with depression and anxiety is the one where Jesus describes his character - the character of God :

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29

That is the nature of God. He is humble and gentle at heart, and He is the still small voice, and He wants to give you rest.

I'm crying now, because I remember when my pastor read that scripture on the phone to me in the middle of one of those intense brainstorms. I made that scripture my own. I decided that it didn't matter what my emotions were telling me, it didn't matter that everything in me was screaming that this was God that was tormenting me - Jesus wanted to give me rest.

Are you weary ? Are you carrying heavy burdens ? The Lord is not in the storm. He wants to give you rest.

Much love,



MamaV said...

This is so real.
My dear wise husband, when I was in the midst of grief and agony and trying desperately to shut myself down and turn myself off, said "give it to Jesus. He is the only one who can carry your grief"
And he was right. I have to keep giving my burdens to Jesus, but every time I do, it is such a relief. I am a great sinner with a greater Savior!

Unknown said...

I praise God I have "found" you, your blog, your beautiful soul. I gave birth to #6 in May, and PPD had reared it's ugly head after the last 4, getting worse each time. My amazing husband has received many similar phone calls, and I am forever thankful that he is so strong in his Faith that he was able to help me cling to mine in those times. Thank you for sharing such intimate aspects of yourself with us. God Bless You.

teal915 said...

Thank you, thank you

Shauna said...

Oh yes yes yes!

Pogue Mahone said...

That's what depression is for me,too: like a deep dark hole that I'm unable to crawl out of,sometimes even wondering if God's punishing me, and when I'm suicidal and begging God to take my life I think at least I'm in good company since even prophets and holy men of God (such as Elijah and Job,for example) were in the same boat, and my favourite Bible verse is Psalm 34, as it reassures me that God is close to the broken hearted, to those that are despairing but that He rescues them from all their troubles.

As He Leads is Joy said...

Thank you for sharing this. Praying that you will find rest in Jesus.

Joy said...

Thank you so much for sharing these truths! Yes, the worst part of feeling depressed is feeling alone, abandoned by God. I love these verses because they show how kind and loving God is. I can just almost hear Him gently saying these words to Elijah, and then hearing Jesus say them to me. God bless you, Patti, for being open to His leading you to share all this!

Maria said...

Patti~going back to read your earlier posts now but I just wanted to say that I am praying for you. As you know, I've suffered from depression for most of my life & it is so very, very frightening. The fact that we've
both "returned to tell the tale" is a testiment to how strong we are, thanks to a loving God. Praying for peace of mind for all who suffer from this disease.
Feel free to email me if you ever need to vent.
Much love,

Unknown said...


Timely blog given the season we are heading into, although those who struggle with anxiety and/or depression are not relegated to a particular season.

I found much of what you wrote very interesting and it brought to mind another are many who have deeply caring hearts may struggle with after hearing their fill of the concerns of others or from the news wire......secondary trauma.

Basically this is feeling the trauma of others in such a personal way it affects you in a similar manner, as though you also went through the experience. Very similar characteristics to depression and is intertwined with depression if one ever experiences it.

Hope you and you family are doing well and keep the great and insightful information coming as tie allows, no doubt you are blessing many with your words.


Patti said...

Dear Christopher ,

A) we don't allow profanity in the comment section

B) It's weird that you are concerned about my life, or those who comment here. Thanks for the interest, but it seems that you are so unhappy with yours you should just focus on that…